Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: July 25, 2017

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Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz addresses an audience at Brandeis University, in Waltham, Mass., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2007.
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz addresses an audience at Brandeis University, in Waltham, Mass., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2007.Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
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DRIVING THE DAY: "House Russia investigators prepare for Jared Kushner's second day on Capitol Hill" by Tom LoBianco: "The intensity could vary starkly from Kushner's appearance before the Senate's Russia investigators just a day earlier, with House Democrats saying they plan to probe for holes in Kushner's 11-page public statement and also pry into his role. Kushner's testimony Tuesday is behind closed doors." [CNN

“What Jared Kushner's Statement Reveals About Russian Methods” by Julia Ioffe: “Kushner’s description of the meeting is doubly strange, and, if accurate, shows [Russian banker Sergey] Gorkov to be a deft operator, skilled at getting his hooks into his subject. He gave Kushner two gifts: “a piece of art from Nvogorod, the village where my grandparents were from in Belarus,” and “a bag of dirt from the same village.” Though Kushner’s grandparents, both Holocaust survivors, were indeed from Belarus, it seems Kushner may have misremembered the name of the village: Nvogorod seems like a misspelling of Novgorod, one of two ancient cities in Russia by that name. In either case, it seems Gorkov did his research on Kushner—and wanted to show it.” [TheAtlantic]

"Who is the real Jared Kushner?" by Errol Louis: 
"The White House is asking us to believe that Kushner, the President's son-in-law, is qualified to run point on an astoundingly broad portfolio of top-level domestic and international affairs, including negotiating Middle East peace... But according to his own statement to Congress, Kushner is so naive, inexperienced and disorganized that he knew nothing of the substance, purpose or fellow attendees of key meetings he sat in on... At a minimum, that doesn't sound like the behavior of an official prepared to navigate the minutiae of Middle East diplomacy." [CNN

HEARD YESTERDAY -- WH Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on AF1: 
"The president was very proud of Jared voluntarily going to the hill and being very transparent with every interaction that he's had. He thought Jared did a great job and was very glad that he was able to go through that process and lay everything out and, I think, show the members of that committee as well as everybody else what a witch hunt and hoax this whole thing really is."

"Jared Kushner has an unusual group is singing his praises: Evangelical leaders" by Sarah Pulliam Bailey: "The group praising Kushner included Southern Baptist pastors David Jeremiah, Robert Jeffress, Ronnie Floyd and Jack Graham, Maryland pastor Harry Jackson, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., former Liberty chaplain Johnnie Moore... Moore said that many evangelicals feel “a connectedness” to Kushner’s Orthodox Jewish faith because it’s so “seamlessly integrated in his life.” Many white evangelicals have warm attitudes toward Jews because they believe God has set them apart as chosen. White evangelicals rate Jews more positively than any other non-Christian religious group, but Jews rate white evangelicals least positively among Christian groups, according to the Pew Research Center." [WashPost]

"New communications director moves toward possible staff purge at White House" by Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker: "Wayne Berman, a longtime Republican operative whose name has been previously floated as a possible chief of staff, is scheduled to meet with Scaramucci on Tuesday at the White House, according to a person familiar with the meeting." [WashPost

Scaramucci tells Andrew Ross Sorkin: "I was left for dead on the street, and now I’m headed for Air Force One,” Mr. Scaramucci said by phone on Monday, literally on his way toward Air Force One for a quick trip with the president to Beaver, W.Va. [DealBook]

KAFE KNESSET -- Bibi would likely back Rudy for AG -- by Tal Shalev and JPost's Lahav Harkov: As it was floated yesterday that Trump might be considering nominating Rudy Giuliani as his new attorney general, it is worth noting that the former NYC Mayor's legal approach has a big fan in Jerusalem. Last month, Giuliani visited Israel and gave an interview to Walla's Jacob Eilon. Eilon asked about politicians accepting gifts from friends, amidst the File 1000 investigation proceeding against Netanyahu. It has been alleged that Arnon Milchan supplied the Prime Minister with alcohol and cigars. "They should leave out the cigars, it is getting really petty and silly," Giuliani replied.

"It looks like it is a politically inspired prosecution. I am very worried, not just here in Israel, but also in the US and all over the world, that we are now criminalizing politics. When there are political differences and the newspapers do not like you and some of your opponents don't like you -- they try to put you under criminal investigations. And personally, as a cigar aficionado, I am one of the most better known cigar smokers in America, they should leave out the cigars." Netanyahu shared the Walla interview on his Facebook page and has been quoting Giuliani as a legal authority to prove his innocence ever since then. Read today's entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION -- Far from the ‘ultimate deal’ President Trump is yearning for, the administration managed yesterday to facilitate an arrangement that ended a weekend standoff between Israel and Jordan following the embassy shooting and aimed at defusing tension in the Middle East over the Temple Mount. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump “for directing Jared Kushner and dispatching Jason Greenblatt to help with our efforts to bring the Israeli embassy staff home quickly.” Greenblatt traveled to Amman after meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem. “We encourage efforts that will help calm tensions [at the Temple Mount] but we leave it to the parties to determine what those efforts might be,” State Department spokeswoman Samantha Sutton told us. “We urge the relevant parties to continue their efforts to ensure the safety and security of this holy site. We leave it to the relevant parties to determine the most appropriate measures.”

Professor Alan Dershowitz told us that he was “disappointed” that Washington did not back Israel more wholeheartedly in this crisis. The Trump administration should have “unequivocally come down on the side of Israel and demand that there be metal detectors and videos to indicate that the highest priorities will be to save human lives and that the Palestinian Authority is dead wrong in using these murders as yet another excuse to incite violence,” he asserted. “I wish the U.S. would take a stronger stance on behalf of the safety and security of Israelis on the Temple Mount.”

The Palestinians are also upset with the Trump administration.Abbas’ dramatic call to cut security ties with Israel on Friday was partially due to feelings that Washington is not invested in finding a resolution to the ongoing conflict, noted FDD's Grant Rumley. "They're looking for a commitment not only to the status quo in Jerusalem but also the status quo in U.S. peacemaking, namely that the two-state solution is the destination for the peace process," he said. "Without hearing that publicly, I think Abbas and the Palestinian leadership will continue to be skeptical of the administration." According to Ofer Zalzberg, a senior Middle East analyst at the International Crisis Group, “The administration seems to underestimate the importance of non-state stakeholders in this conflict: Most importantly, the Palestinian protestors and their leadership in East Jerusalem. Even if (Jordanian King) Abdullah would accept a formula, it’s far from clear that they would be able to get the public to support them to support it and cease the demonstrations."

However, for Hussein Ibish, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf State Institute, much of the criticism of the Trump administration approach is unfair. The current U.S. policy is “hands-off, but at the same time I’m not sure how effective (former Secretary of State John) Kerry’s approach really was. It’s hard for me to be overly critical of what look likes a slower and more cautious approach,” Ibish noted. [JewishInsider

Daniel Shapiro writes With Jerusalem Burning, President Trump Needs to Engage: “U.S. interventions to help deescalate are far more effective at the Presidential and Secretary of State level, because only the relevant heads of state and equivalent figures on the Israel, Jordanian, Palestinian, and Arab sides can take the necessary decisions President Trump’s silence on these events undercut his Administration’s diplomatic efforts. Likewise Secretary Tillerson’s complete and mysterious absence from the Israeli-Palestinian arena.” [Haaretz]

"Meeting lawmakers, US envoy hails role in ending Temple Mount crisis" by Raphael Ahren: 
"Speaking as a guest of the Knesset Caucus for US-Israel relations, in his first appearance at the Israeli parliament, [David] Friedman said he relished the opportunity for the US to play a role in resolving the dispute, describing Monday as a “14” on a scale from 1-10... “And with no fanfare, but a lot of hard work and behind-the scenes discussions by the senior officials in the US and, of course, the prime minister [of Israel] and the king of Jordan, we were able to diffuse a situation very quickly.” ... In a gentle reproach to US President Donald Trump, opposition leader Isaac Herzog recommended that Washington get involved sooner the next time there is a major crisis in the region." [ToI

ZOA calls for Tillerson’s resignation over State Department terrorism report -- by Jacob Kornbluh: "In light of the U.S. State Department’s new, bigoted, biased, anti-Semitic, Israel-hating error-ridden terrorism report, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) calls on Secretary of State Tillerson to resign," the ZOA said in a statement. "The ZOA has lost all confidence in Secretary of State Tillerson in his ability to promote President Trump’s Mideast policies, be fair to our greatest ally, the Jewish State of Israel, and to fight the scourge of Islamist terrorism. Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah and ISIS must be thrilled with this Tillerson publication. ZOA calls for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s resignation." [JewishInsider

"Unrest bubbles among Trump's key foreign policy aides: sources" by John Walcott: 
"[Rex] Tillerson scored a policy win last week when the administration certified, albeit reluctantly, that Iran was complying with the 2015 nuclear deal... He was upset, however, by fierce internal criticism from Trump, as well as his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and White House aide Sebastian Gorka, over the decision... "The secretary does not feel that White House staff members should be in a position to conduct hostile cross-(examinations) of Cabinet officials," the official said." [Reuters]

John Bolton: Trump Wants to Kill Iran Deal: 
"I’ve previously talked to him about Iran and nuclear proliferation several times. He sees this as a clear threat to the United States and our allies. Perhaps almost alone in government, President Trump sees this as an urgent matter, like the way he sees North Korea. I don’t think this is going to happen again when the next certification letter to congress is due 90 days from now." [Tablet

“The Qatari foreign minister makes his nation’s case” by Ishaan Tharoor: “Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani... and other Qatari officials maintain that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with their courtship of a democratic political party like the Brotherhood, and pointed out that the other gulf states have their own links with Hamas and other Islamist groups. Thani insisted that Qatar has been working on curbing financing to terrorist and extremist groups elsewhere in the region and was coordinating its efforts with Washington He also emphasized that there is “no special relationship” between Doha and Tehran, and pointed to how bilateral trade between the UAE and Iran was exponentially greater than Qatar's.”[WashPost

ON THE HILL -- The House of Representatives is expected to vote today on bipartisan legislation that would tighten sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea. AIPAC is backing the current bill. “A nearly united Congress is poised to send President Putin a clear message on behalf of the American people and our allies, and we need President Trump to help us deliver that message," noted Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. [CSPAN]

Press Sec. Sanders: “The President has been very vocal about his support for continuing sanctions on those three countries. He has no intention of getting rid of them, but he wants to make sure we get the best deal for the American people possible. Congress does not have the best record on that. I think you can look at NAFTA, you can look at the Iran deal, and the President wants to make sure that we actually get the best deal for the United States.”

HAPPENING LATER TODAY: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will be holding a hearing highlighting the plight of American detainees in Iran. Douglas Levinson, the son of Bob Levinson who also works as a staffer in Senator Bob Menendez's office (D-NJ) will testify along Omar Zakka, son of Nizar Zakka. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) will be chairing the session. 

Sen. Bob Menendez tells us “As the longest held civilian in our Nation’s history, Bob’s detention is a cruel reminder of the ongoing injustice, human rights, and clear violations of international will perpetrated by the Iran regime. But despite the heartbreak, I have had the privilege of witnessing the Levinson family’s unbreakable spirit and courageous commitment to securing Bob’s safe return home. I stand with them and look forward to working with the Administration to demand his immediate and unconditional release. The U.S. government must speak with one voice to prevent Iran from further delaying Bob’s reunification with his family.”

HAPPENING LATER TODAY: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will be holding a hearing highlighting the plight of American detainees in Iran. Douglas Levinson, the son of Bob Levinson who also works as a staffer in Senator Bob Menendez's office (D-NJ) will testify along Omar Zakka, son of Nizar Zakka. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) will be chairing the session. 

HEARD THE OTHER DAY -- Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on the Israel Anti Boycott Act: "I saw the bill as an extension of foreign policy to not allow companies to side with foreign entities that were doing boycotts. I support everyone’s right to free speech, I would never do anything to undermine people’s rights to free speech, but I do see how this issue is seriously being debated, and I have asked the ACLU to come meet with me. I am open to looking at it again because I do not want to undermine people’s free speech rights on any level... "I am concerned that Prime Minister Netanyahu does not have a plan for peace, and doesn’t have a vision for peace,” Gillibrand said Saturday at a town hall meeting in the Bronx in New York City, in remarks first reported by Mondoweiss, an anti-Zionist news site. [JTA]

JFNA's William Daroff in a statement: 
"Jewish Federations strongly disagrees with those who view the act as antithetical to the First Amendment. The act involves commercial business and in no way abridges any individual’s right to freedom of speech, nor does it force any company to do business with Israel. As noted constitutional law professor Alan Dershowitz has said about similar laws, such actions do not undermine free speech and ‘BDS activists would still be free to advocate bigotry.’”

TRUMP TUMULT: "Trump White House Tests a Nation’s Capacity for Outrage" by Peter Baker: “Presidents don’t order the prosecution of their defeated opponents in this country,” said Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary under Mr. Bush. “It’s never sat well with me. That leads to a divided America.” He added that Mr. Trump “does it to fire up the pro-Trump base of the party.” [NYTimes]

"Trump shames Sessions amid shake-up speculation" by Josh Dawsey, Eliana Johnson, Nahal Toosi and Daniel Lippman: 
"NSC staffers threw a surprise birthday party for [H. R.] McMaster early Monday evening on the balcony of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. It was standing room only and paid for by the staffers, one White House official said. Top aides Jared Kushner, Dina Powell and Tom Bossert attended the gathering, where there was singing and chocolate cake for the general, who turned 55 on Monday. "The president would like the leaking to stop about getting rid of McMaster," Scaramucci said." [Politico

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Inside Andy Rubin's Quest to Create an OS for Everything [Wired]  Nexar releases 55K street pics from 80 countries to spur autonomous driving [TC Aby Rosen’s famed Bowery building locks down temporary retail tenant [NYPost]  Would You Invest with Steven Cohen? [IIMag]

SPOTLIGHT: “This Hedge Fund Is Betting $280 Million on a 34-Year-Old Guy” by Sridhar Natarajan and Katia Porzecanski: “Back in February, [Dan] Och shocked many on Wall Street by elevating [Jimmy] Levin, the star of the firm’s credit business, to co-chief investment officer and handing him an incentive package of $280 million Och wagered a small personal fortune to make it happen, relinquishing 30 million of his own shares Och and Levin met when Levin was a counselor and water-skiing coach at a camp in Wisconsin where Och’s children spent part of their summer After graduating from Harvard University with a degree in computer science, Levin worked for Sagamore Hill Capital Management and then Dune Capital, the now defunct hedge fund founded by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Och finally hired Levin as a distressed analyst.” [Bloomberg

MEDIA WATCH: "The Agony and the Anxiety of The New York Times" by Joe Pompeo:
 "Insiders say the baton pass from longtime publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. to his 36-year-old son, A.G. Sulzberger, is beginning to feel imminent. Following in his father’s footsteps, the younger Sulzberger has been working as deputy publisher since last October, after being groomed in the newsroom for a few years. Pinch became publisher in 1992 at the age of 40, when his father, Arthur Ochs “Punch” Sulzberger, stepped down at the age of 65, the standard retirement threshold for senior Times executives. (Sulzberger Jr. will turn 66 in September.)" [VanityFair]

"The 18 donors who've given Cuomo more than $100K" by Bill Mahoney: "Mayer Hirsch, a developer in the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel, gave Cuomo nine checks totaling a quarter million dollars a week after the governor vetoed a bill that would restrict development in Kiryas JoelHoward and Abby Milstein have given Cuomo five-figure sums in recent years The Durst Organization Barry Rosenstein has given the governor $65,000 this term, and his wife and daughters have combined to contribute $82,500. He hosted a fundraiser for Cuomo in East Hampton earlier this month In addition to being a top donor to the governor, [Ron] Perelman’s holding company MacAndrews & Forbes has been a top destination for former members of Cuomo’s administration, hiring his communications director and secretary in recent years Hedge funder Steven Cohen, the world’s 92nd richest person according to Forbes, shared a bte noire with Cuomo.” [Politico

“Mr. Trump’s Russian Base Beyond the Kremlin” by Francis Clines: “Putin? Meddle in American politics?” [Mikhail] Rubinsteyn asked in wonderment at his popular Brighton Beach cafe. “Absolutely not. Fake news from Democrats,” he said, echoing the all-purpose dismissal crafted by his beloved President Trump, whose émigré support remains firm in the community There is much more complexity to Brighton Beach these days, according to Sam Kliger, a sociologist who is director of Russian Jewish community affairs for the American Jewish Committee Mr. Kliger notes that the community has traditionally been pro-Republican at the presidential level... “Anything that remotely smells of Communism they hate,” Mr. Kliger said, noting how even the focus on government service proposals by Democrats can be mistrusted.” [NYTimes

“Little Girl’s Tearful Meeting With Gal Gadot Shows Why ‘Wonder Woman’ Matters” by Ed Mazza: “Viral footage from Comic-Con in San Diego showed the star comforting a young fan who was wearing a “Wonder Woman” shirt and cape. But the little girl, named Ashley, began to cry when she reached the front of the line. “She was so happy to meet her that she was tearing up,” her mother, Christine Keller, wrote on Twitter. In the footage, Gadot reaches across the table and takes the girl’s hand. “There’s no reason to cry, all right,” Gadot said. “Here we are together.”” [HuffPost

“‘Menashe’ director takes unorthodox path for story of ultra-Orthodox single father” by Naomi Pfefferman: "Filmmaker Joshua Z. Weinstein had learned Hebrew as a boy while attending a Conservative Jewish day school in New Jersey but didn’t speak a word of Yiddish...Circumstances improved after Weinstein met Danny Finkelman, a member of the more open Lubavitch Chasidic movement and a producer of music and other videos deemed proper for ultra-Orthodox viewers. It was Finkelman who introduced Weinstein to [Menashe] Lustig on a TV commercial set more than two years ago. Lustig already had made comic YouTube videos in Yiddish and aspired to earn more acting jobs. The filmmaker said he immediately was impressed by Lustig’s performing prowess. Over the next few months, Weinstein became so taken with Lustig’s personal story that he decided to fictionalize it for “Menashe.”” [JewishJournal]

DESSERT: “At Johns Hopkins, clergy try mind-altering drugs for scientific research” by Julie Zauzmer: “In the Hopkins and NYU study, two dozen clergy — including priests, pastors and rabbis — are taking controlled doses of psilocybin, the drug found in psychedelic mushrooms, under the watchful eye of scientists When the revered rabbinic leader Menachem Schneerson was asked in a letter about LSD in the 1960s, he wrote back that the drug “is not the proper way to attain mystical inspiration, even if it had such a property. The Jewish way is to go from strength to strength, not by means of drugs and other artificial stimulants, which have a place only if they are necessary for the physical health.” But the Hopkins researchers have found Christian, Jewish and Buddhist clergy willing to participate anonymously in their study.” [WashPost

“Finding a Common Language Through Olive Oil” by Florence Fabricant: “These oils have Palestinian and Israeli roots. Palestinian women cultivate and harvest olives from groves north of Galilee for use in the nonprofit company Sindyanna of Galilee’s olive oils, which are made by Israeli women. At Kalustyan’s in New York, Dona Abramson, a manager, has the cold-pressed, fair-trade, extra-virgin olive oils on a shelf between Israeli and Palestinian oils. The store carries three of them.” [NYTimes

BIRTHDAYS: Author Midge Decter (born Midge Rosenthal) turns 90... Cinematographer, whose work includes "The Empire Strikes Back," Peter Suschitzky turns 76... Member of the New York City Council since 2014, he  was formerly a member of the New York State Assembly (2006-2013), Alan Maisel turns 71... Born in Casablanca, nightclub owner, entrepreneur and film producer, he produced "The Woman in Red" and "Weekend at Bernie's," Victor Drai turns 70... Former IDF Brigadier General (he was part of Operation Entebbe in 1976), a former leader of the National Religious Party, then a member of Knesset (2003-2009), now President of Genie Oil and Gas, Efraim "Effi" Eitam turns 65... Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist, formerly of the Washington Post editorial board (2002-2006), Anne Applebaum turns 53... MLB pitcher for 12 seasons (1988-1997), from the small Jewish community in the Dominican Republic, maintains a kosher home, not to be confused with the Toronto player of the same name, José Bautistaturns 53... Israeli journalist, television news anchor on Channel 10 and author of a non-fiction book and a novel, Oshrat Kotler turns 52... Member of the Los Angeles City Council (where he is the sole member registered as Republican), representing a district in the San Fernando Valley, Mitchell Englander turns 47... NYC-based criminal defense attorney in many high-profile cases, especially involving Russian-born defendants, Arkady L. Bukhturns 45... Baseball pitcher in the Oakland Athletics organization, he pitched for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Joseph "Joey" Samuel Wagman turns 26... Erin Seidler...

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