Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: June 14, 2017

Corker Hopes to Pass Taylor Force Act by August | Senate Narrowly Backs Trump Weapons Sale to Saudi Arabia | Jewish groups struggle to gain White House access points

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Marc Kasowitz, Donald Trump's personal attorney, leaves a packed room at the National Press Club in Washington after delivering a statement following the congressional testimony of former FBI Director James Comey, June 8, 2017
Marc Kasowitz, Donald Trump's attorney, leaves a packed room at the National Press Club in Washington after delivering a statement following the congressional testimony of James Comey, June 8, 2017Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

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BREAKING THIS AM: "Rep. Steve Scalise -- as well as a congressional staffer and members of the congressional police force -- was shot Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Virginia, in what sources are calling an apparent "deliberate attack." As of 9:45 a.m. ET, Scalise was in stable condition but undergoing surgery, according to a statement from his office." [CNN]

ON THE HILL: Corker Hopes to Pass Taylor Force Act by August -- by Aaron Magid: Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee indicated on Tuesday that the committee will vote on the Taylor Force Act before Congress goes on recess in August. “It’s my hope that before we go home for the August recess that we will have passed out of committee a Taylor Force-like piece of legislation” to address the issue of Palestinian Authority payments to families of terrorists, Corker said during a public hearing on the State Department’s budget featuring Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Addressing the PLO’s payments, Tillerson noted, “Let me assure you Senator, it was discussed directly when President Abbas made his visit with his delegation to Washington. The President (Trump) raised it and I had a much more detailed bilateral with him (Abbas) later that day. I told him: ‘You absolutely must stop making payments of family members of quote martyrs.’ I said it’s one thing to help orphans and children but when you designate the payment for that act: That has to stop.” [JewishInsider]

"Despite Tillerson reassurance, Palestinians not stopping 'martyr' payments" by Ali Sawafta: "Palestinian officials say there are no plans to stop payments to families of Palestinians killed or wounded carrying out attacks against Israelis, contradicting comments by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson... "There have been talks about making the payments in a different way, but not ending them," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on discussions held with the Americans. "They could perhaps be labeled differently," he said, suggesting the description "martyr" could be dropped, but he added: "They are not going to be stopped."" [Reuters]

KAFE KNESSET -- by Tal Shalev and JPost's Lahav Harkov: Secretary Tillerson’s statement, that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has changed its policy of paying salaries to families of terrorists, caught Jerusalem by surprise. Early this morning a senior PMO official clarified that “Israel has no knowledge of any change in Palestinian policy, which continues to pay to the families of terrorists. The Palestinian Authority continues to praise, incite and encourage terrorism through payments.” A few hours later, the Knesset approved a first reading of a new law that would deduct the PA’s terrorism payments from the Israeli tax revenues that are distributed to the PA. 

The new law was approved by a wide cross section of members, with 78 MKs voting in support and only 13 voting against. The bill, sponsored by opposition MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid), was supported by the government coalition as well as by the Zionist Union. The Arab MKs were fuming over the consensus support. Joint List (Arab) MK Yosef Jabarin presented the opposition to the bill, which he defined as a “populist bill and collective punishment. There is hardly a Palestinian family that does not include a security prisoner.” Jewish Home’s Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan blasted “just declare that you support terror.” Read today's entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

Taylor Force Act, now with bipartisan backing: The measure currently has 13 co-sponsors, including Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) who recently added his name to the bill. [JewishInsider]

Sander Gerber, who lobbied Manchin on the issue, tells us: "Like others, Senator Manchin was shocked to learn that the PA has a formal legal and bureaucratic infrastructure to incentivize violence against Israel- funded by donor countries. The American taxpayer should applaud his stand to keep our dollars out of the hands of terror sponsoring entities." 

AIPAC Spokesman Marshall Wittmann: “We strongly support the legislation’s goals and we are working with Congress to build broad bipartisan support that will require the Palestinian leadership to end these abhorrent payments.”

"Senate Narrowly Backs Trump Weapons Sale to Saudi Arabia" by Helene Cooper: "Senators voted, 53 to 47, to pave the way to sell $500 million in precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, batting back an effort to block the deal and saving Mr. Trump from what would have been a major embarrassment... Trump administration officials spent the hours before the vote frantically making phone calls and holding briefings with lawmakers to stave off a defeat, which would have been the first time in decades that a congressional body summarily rejected a weapons sale to Saudi Arabia." [NYTimes]

Dore Gold's latest -- "This past Sunday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for dismantling UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency). He charged that the very existence of UNRWA “perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem rather than solves it.” [JPost]

An insider tells us: "Bibi's backing of UNRWA reform is a big deal beacuse for the longest time the obstacle to getting it done has been the Israelis."

"Jewish groups struggle to gain White House access points" by Michael Wilner: "Presidents since Jimmy Carter have hired White House Jewish liaisons to serve as point men for the community. But the position has been vacant since January 20, and the White House has no plans to fill it, a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday... Jason Greenblatt was behind the guest list for an Israeli Independence Day reception in April, which included more conservative-leaning Jewish groups, said one attendee. Tom Rose, a close confidante of Vice President Mike Pence, has become another critical connection for several Jewish organizations. Greenblatt may become the next Tevi Troy, a George W. Bush administration official who served in 2003 as both deputy cabinet secretary and Jewish liaison, said Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy for the Orthodox Union." [JPost]

"Trump’s Personal Lawyer Boasted That He Got Preet Bharara Fired" by Jesse Eisinger and Justin Elliott: "Marc Kasowitz, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer in the Russia investigation, has boasted to friends and colleagues that he played a central role in the firing of Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, according to four people familiar with the conversations. Kasowitz told Trump, “This guy is going to get you,” according to a person familiar with Kasowitz’s account. Those who know Kasowitz say he is sometimes prone to exaggerating when regaling them with his exploits. But if true, his assertion adds to the mystery surrounding the motive and timing of Bharara’s firing." [ProPublica

"Trump Stews, Staff Steps In, and Mueller Is Safe for Now" by Glenn Thrush, Maggie Haberman and Julie Hirschfeld Davis:
 "Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser, supported firing Mr. Comey, but he has been less pugnacious lately, administration officials said. Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, has adopted a more temperate tone, telling her husband that she believed the appointment of Mr. Mueller would speed resolution of the Russia scandal and expressing her view that he would be exonerated, according to two people with direct knowledge of her advice." [NYTimes]

NYPOST'S 'DEEP DIVE': "Ivanka and Jared don’t let Sabbath get in the way of golf" by Gabrielle Fonrouge and Bruce Golding: "President Trump’s daughter and son-in-law don’t let their religious practices interfere with their love of the links at his Bedminster country club. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner follow the Jewish prohibition on Sabbath business transactions by not paying the caddy who carries their golf bags on Saturdays until the next day, a club worker said. Their tips are generous — usually $100 on top of the $200-per-round, the worker said. But experts in Jewish law say that playing golf on Saturdays isn’t kosher — even without exchanging cash or using carts, which the couple shuns." [NYPost] Expect the Post to get a fair amount of complaints about running this... 

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Adelson's Sands Joins Casinos in Fight Against Clean-Energy Bill [Bloomberg]  Uber Director David Bonderman Apologizes and Resigns for ‘Inappropriate’ Comment About Women [WSJ; Recode]  Ahoy! Michael Dezer buys former Nautical Furnishings warehouse in Fort Lauderdale for $6M [RealDeal] Naomi Klein Is Sick of Benevolent Billionaires [NYTimes]  What does the future hold for Arabic entrepreneurs in Israel? [TechCrunch]  Israeli cybersecurity firm Tufin opens U.S. HQ in Boston, sees IPO in future [BizJournals]

SPOTLIGHT: "Soros Protege Makes a $700 Million Gamble" by Yaacov Benmeleh and Pablo Rosendo Gonzalez: "Eduardo Elsztain thought he could succeed where dealmakers like Jared Kushner, Patrick Drahi and Matthew Bronfman didn’t: In Israel, the land of his business dreams. The Argentine businessman has achieved plenty elsewhere. Back in 1990, it took him just an hour to persuade George Soros to give him $10 million to invest. He parlayed that and other investments into a holding company that by 1997 had made about $360 million in acquisitions..."

"But in the Jewish state, he has spent five years and almost $700 million trying to turn around IDB Development Corp., Israel’s largest conglomerate. There’s no telling whether he’ll pull it off. He needs to sell a key asset to help repay $1.5 billion to debtholders in the next three years—while fighting regulators’ demands. “Most people told me ‘Beware: you’re going to Israel and you will lose money.’ I heard it 1,000 times,” Elsztain, 57, said over a kosher breakfast at Bloomberg headquarters in New York in April, adding that he’s seen worse conditions in Argentina. “We are committed to this investment.” If Elsztain succeeds, he’ll be turning recent history on its head. About 10 wealthy foreign Jews have foundered in Israel in the past few years, either paying too much for assets, or getting into conflict with regulators and partners, or walking away from deals." [Bloomberg]

STARTUP NATION: "Chinese fund MizMaa to invest $100m in Israel" by Idan Rabi: "A new venture capital fund originating in China will invest $100 million in Israel, sources inform "Globes." The new fund is called MizMaa Ventures - a combination of the Hebrew words for east and west. The fund began operating a year ago, and has operated under the radar up until now. MizMaa has obtained funding from three wealthy Chinese families, with most of the money coming from the Chen family, believed to be the 58th wealthiest family in the world. Leading MizMaa's activity is Chinese investment banker and former JPMorgan Asia Investment Banking VP Catherine Leung, together with former Bank of America executive Isaac Applbaum, who lives in San Francisco, and also chairs the Western Wall Heritage Foundation." [Globes]

SPOTTED IN ISRAEL -- Peter Thiel giving a talk on entrepreneurship yesterday at the Peres Center for Peace [Pic] See Thiel's book Zero to One in Hebrew [Pic] h/t Adam Finkel

Former PM Ehud Barak posted a photo with Thiel in Tel Aviv [Pic]

SPORTS BLINK: "Alex Rodriguez swings for the fences in the business world" by Rachel Cao: "The baseball legend recounted how he started investing in a small duplex that grew into a large entity called ARod Corp., which manages more than 15,000 apartment units in 12 states... Rodriguez listed big name investors such as Barry Sternlicht, Marc Lasry and Warren Buffett as some of his mentors in the ways of finance and business, but he also acknowledged he needs to put in the work to succeed." [CNBC]

Warriors to decide on White House visit 'when and if necessary' -- "Shortly before the team issued its statement, Warriors owner Joe Lacob was asked about a potential White House visit during an interview with ESPN's First Take. "I can't believe we're getting this question already," Lacob said. "But honestly, that's something we'll worry about at the time. That's a long time from now."" [ESPN; CNN]

DESSERT: "Israeli Cuisine Is Complex, Contentious, and on the Rise in New York" by Sierra Tishgart: "In just the last year or so, that’s changed completely: Israeli-leaning Nur, Miss Ada, and Kubeh have opened in New York in 2017, joining other relative newcomers like Timna, Dizengoff, Bar Bolonat, Glasserie, and Nish Nush. Israeli chef Elior Balbul will introduce Alenbi, an Israeli fine-dining restaurant, in Crown Heights this summer. This phenomenon in New York follows what’s happening around the country: The James Beard Foundation crowned Mike Solomonov “Outstanding Chef” for Philadelphia’s Zahav, and gave a “Rising Star Chef” award to Zachary Engel, of Shaya in New Orleans. In L.A, Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson earned Food & Wine’s “Best New Chefs” title for Kismet, and Sqirl’s Jessica Koslow will open an 8,000-square-foot, all-day restaurant named Tel, as in Tel Aviv, early next year." [GrubStreet]

SCENE LAST NIGHT: Around a hundred Jewish community leaders and activists gathered at the Israeli Embassy in Washington to honor LGBT pride month. The featured speaker was Talleen Abu Hana, who was the first winner of the Miss. Trans Israel beauty pageant. The event began with a moment of silence for the June 2016 shooting at the Pulse Orlando nightclub. Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer also spoke and noted that LGBT organizations have operated openly in Israel for the past 40 years. “Our country allowed me, a Christian Arab from Nazareth, to end the war between my soul and my body. So if Israel made peace for me, it shows that our country is a country of peace," Abu Hana added. The event was held in conjunction with the Congressional LGBT equality caucus and A Wider Bridge.

SPOTTED: JFNA's William Daroff, Jason Attermann, Jewish Agency's Avi Mayer, Rabbi Jack Moline, AIPAC's Marvin Feuer & Marilyn Rosenthal, Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, Liz Leibowitz, Argentinian Embassy's Sergio Gunella, JFNA's Bruce Maclver, B'nai Tzedek's Rabbi Stuart, A Wider Bridge's Arthur Slepian, Matt Nosanchuk, Robert Saferstein. 

BIRTHDAYS: 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump turns 71... Writer, editor and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Leon Wieseltier turns 65... Emmy Award-winning television news anchor on NBC (2003-2007) and CNN (2008-2010), now Head of News Partnerships at Facebook, Campbell Brown turns 49... Russian-born billionaire and philanthropist, now a UK resident, Leonard "Len" Blavatnik turns 60... Civil rights activist with the NAACP in the US and for Peace Now when she lived in Ashkelon (1972-1983), June Shagaloff Alexander turns 89... Retired Soviet nuclear scientist, now writing from Skokie on Jewish intellectual spirituality, Vladimir Minkov, Ph.D. turns 84... Member of Knesset (1988-2003) and twice Israel's Minister of Finance, Mayor of Arad for twenty years and son-in-law of former Israeli prime minister Levi Eshkol, Avraham ("Beiga") Shochat turns 81... Senior Vice President for Synagogue and Rabbinic Initiatives at the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Dr. Beryl Geber turns 80... Former French UN Ambassador (2000-2002), French Ambassador to the USA (2002-2007), then diplomatic advisor to former French Presidents Chirac and Sarkozy (2007-2012), Jean-David Levitte turns 71... Political activist Pamela Geller turns 59... Principal at M+R Strategic Services, a consulting firm for non-profits with 130 employees, William Benjamin ("Bill") Wasserman turns 58...  Global communications executive at Nike, previously an official at USAID, Daniel M. Gaynor turns 36... NYC-based businessman, son of Russian oligarch and former political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Pavel Khodorkovsky turns 32... Freelance writer specializing in European and Israeli politics, Liam Hoare... Joanna Lerner...

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