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TALK AT THE UN: "Talks with the United States over how to reform the main U.N. rights body have failed to meet Washington’s demands, activists and diplomats say, suggesting that the Trump administration will quit the Geneva forum whose session opens on Monday. A U.S. source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the withdrawal appeared to be “imminent." ... Diplomats said it could also lead to Israel being even more isolated in the Human Rights Council." [Reuters]
Classified Israeli report raises doubts over Trump-Kim summit -- by Barak Ravid: "A classified report from Israel's foreign ministry raises doubts over President Trump's optimistic statements about his summit with Kim Jong-un... Trump's readiness to accept Kim's demand to halt U.S. military exercises with South Korea is a retreat by the U.S. and an acceptance of China's "freeze-for-freeze" approach. The Israeli foreign ministry analysts note that the U.S. had previously rejected the Chinese position. "Regardless of the smiles in the summit many in Japan, South Korea and the U.S. Congress doubt that North Korea is sincere in its intentions. Our assessment is that regardless of President Trump's statements about quick changes that are expected in North Korean policy, the road [to] real and substantive change, if it ever happens, will be long and slow."[Axios]
Former Ambassador Marc Ginsberg emails us... "Ironic that on the heels of his meeting with Trump, Kim Jong Un's next appearance on the world stage will be to welcome Syria's Bashar al Assad. Kim has pumped chemical weapons, missile tech, and North Korean workers into Syria, and North Korea was largely responsible for the construction of the Syrian nuke reactor destroyed by Israel in Operation "Outside the Box" in 2007. If Trump wants to contain Syria's chemical weapons program, a good place to start is in Pyongyang."
Dov Zakheim writes... "Kim looks the winner in round one: The current understanding between Kim and Trump may not be a complete American giveaway either, as some critics are asserting. Yet, as the joint communiqué makes abundantly clear, Trump has yielded far more than he will ever acknowledge. The self-proclaimed master of the art of the deal may have concluded in the first few minutes of his meeting with Kim that the outcome would be successful. What is less obvious is who actually came away with the greater success."[TheHill]
Derek Chollet writes... "Singapore Was Just the First Episode of Trump’s North Korea Show: Coming attractions include the diplomatic play with Iran... Remember that Trump didn’t just want to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, but to pull out of the whole of the Middle East, and what better way to do that than to make peace with Iran? Sure, leaders in the Gulf and Israel would be apoplectic. But they have to know that in Trump’s world, there are never any friends, only business associates who can be jettisoned for higher profits."[ForeignPolicy]
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH: Trump team fears 'dead on arrival' Mideast peace plan -- by Michael Wilner: "White House officials have not yet settled on that time frame and may delay its rollout into the fall or even beyond... "You can't put something out where everybody says, ah, this is dead on arrival," [a WH] official said... "And the same exact document that may be dead on arrival on a Monday might not be dead on arrival on a Thursday."
"Israeli sources tell the Post that the peace team appears at times in disagreement over the timing of the launch, claiming that Friedman once successfully lobbied Trump for a delay and continues to advocate for a protracted rollout... Friedman denied that he wants to delay the launch up to a year and dismissed accusations of friction within the team... "We are close friends, the three of us, that have known each other for two decades," Friedman told the Post. "We've also known the president for almost two decades. We're completely loyal to him and the agenda of reaching a peace agreement– maybe that's unique in Washington."[JPost]
Ilan Goldenberg, a former State Department official under John Kerry and a Middle East expert at the Center for a New American Security, tweets: "Fresh off the Singapore confab, there are reports that Trump’s next big foreign policy splash will be the release of an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan... This would be a terrible mistake on so many levels... The plan will be dead on arrival because the Palestinians have refused to talk to the administration for the past 6 months since the Jerusalem embassy announcement. How can you be the mediator if one side won’t even talk to you?"
Trump's Israel-Palestine deal targets Saudi alliance, not peace -- by Akiva Eldar: "The prevailing view among Israeli and Palestinian officials... is that the Trump administration views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a mere hurdle on the way to forging a strategic US-Israeli-Arab alliance against Iran and its proxies. According to these officials... US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman... has ascertained that the deal... would be tailored to fit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu... In this situation, Israel and Saudi Arabia would welcome the US plan and urge the Palestinians to resume negotiations with Israel based on the new blueprint. The Palestinians would flatly reject the plan... The Saudis would blame the Palestinians for the collapse of the deal and would renounce the 2002 Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative that conditions normalization of Arab ties with Israel on its withdrawal from the occupied territories."[Al-Monitor]
Putin and Netanyahu agree to coordinate on Syria -- by Maria Kiseleva: "Russia's President Vladimir Putin agreed to strengthen coordination on Syria with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone call, the Kremlin said... They discussed joint efforts to ensure security in the area of the Syrian-Israeli border, Kremlin said."[USNews]
Russia breaks from pack, holds national day reception in Jerusalem -- by Herb Keinon: "The annual Russia Day celebration put on by the Russian embassy took on added significance on Thursday because it was held in Jerusalem, the first national day to be held in the capital by any country in recent memory. “I am delighted to be here,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu... said in the picturesque Sergei Courtyard in Jerusalem. “I am honored to celebrate Russia Day here with you in Jerusalem, and I predict we will celebrate many, many more Russia Days in Jerusalem,” he said."[JPost; Video]
JARED INSIDER -- Kushner basks in glow of winning World Cup bid -- by Annie Karni: "[Jared] Kushner has been telling associates he is thrilled about the U.S. winning its joint bid with Canada and Mexico to host the World Cup in 2026 — in part because he sees it as a legitimate diplomatic win that he can claim some credit for. “He’s very pumped,” said one person familiar with his thinking. “First time I’ve heard him genuinely happy in over a year.” Indeed, Team Jared was quick to point to the World Cup as a victory for the son-in-law, who’s built strong relationships with many of the major players in the Middle East who in turn cast votes for the winning bid — as well as with partners Canada and Mexico."[Politico]
2026 World Cup could help Robert Kraft score soccer stadium in Boston -- by Sean Philip Cotter and Dan Atkinson: "Bob Kraft and the New England Revolution moved the ball up the field in their quest to boost soccer and build momentum for a stadium in downtown Boston with yesterday’s FIFA announcement that the 2026 World Cup will be held in North America... Kraft was part of the three-nation team that won the 2026 bid."[BostonHerald]
Trump tweets this morning: "Thank you for all of the compliments on getting the World Cup to come to the U.S.A., Mexico and Canada. I worked hard on this, along with a Great Team of talented people. We never fail, and it will be a great World Cup! A special thanks to Bob Kraft for excellent advice."
Natalie Portman's biting comments about former friend Jared Kushner -- by George Back: "Kushner and Portman attended Harvard together. He wasn’t the best student, Portman claims, but they were friends. In fact, they were good enough friends that Portman attended Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s wedding. As Colbert pushed Portman to discuss her friendship with Kushner, the Oscar winner said, “There’s not a lot funny to say about someone you were friends with becoming a supervillain.” [Yahoo]
BREAKING -- Cohen signals openness to cooperating with federal investigators -- by Kara Scannell: "Michael Cohen has indicated to family and friends he is willing to cooperate with federal investigators to alleviate the pressure on himself and his family... Cohen has expressed anger with the treatment he has gotten from the President, who has minimized his relationship with Cohen, and comments from the President's lawyer Rudy Giuliani... The treatment has left him feeling isolated and more open to cooperating... Asked by reporters Friday if he was worried about Cohen cooperating, Trump said, "I did nothing wrong, nothing wrong." He also said he hasn't spoken with Cohen "in a long time," adding, "I always liked Michael and he's a good person." [CNN]
2018 WATCH -- That Bernie Sanders CIA Guy Running for Congress From Woodstock -- by Armin Rosen: "[Jeff] Beals moved over to the State Department in 2002. A fluent Arabic speaker—something that would make him a rarity in all of American electoral politics—he was the political officer in the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem in charge of keeping tabs on the Palestinian political scene from 2002 to 2004... Beals wouldn’t speak in much detail about what policies he would advocate in Congress—he passed on endorsing or opposing cuts to military aid to Israel, for instance. But he believes peace is possible... Beals is married to a Palestinian woman from Nazareth he met when he was based in Jerusalem, and has two young children. He is, perhaps, one of the only people to spend their formative years in the Israeli-Palestinian cauldron and come out of it feeling better about the human race... While still in his early 20s, he traveled through central Europe to write a book about his family’s Holocaust history." [Tablet]
Maloney all smiles with diplomatwho likened drug war to ‘Final Solution’ -- by Carl Campanile: "Rep. Carolyn Maloney... posted a photo on Facebook of her schmoozing at the recent Philippine Independence Day parade with the Philippine’s Representative to the UN, Teodoro Locsin... Locsin caused a stir when he tweeted: “I believe that the Drug Menace is so big it needs a FINAL SOLUTION like the Nazis adopted." [NYPost]
Sessions cites Bible passage used to defend slavery in defense of separating immigrant families -- by Julie Zauzmer and Keith McMillan: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday used a Bible verse to defend his department’s policy of prosecuting everyone who crosses the border from Mexico, suggesting that God supports the government in separating immigrant parents from their children. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said during a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Ind..."[WashPost]
-- A day after hosting Jeff Sessions at the Orthodox Union annual mission to DC, OU President Moishe Bane released a statementcriticizing the Trump Administration's border enforcement policies: "As an Orthodox Jewish organization whose values are anchored in those of the Torah and Jewish history, we are deeply concerned about any steps taken that affect families and the parent/child relationship. The family is viewed by the Torah as a sacred institution and fundamental building block of society... Thus, we believe that immigration, asylum and border security policies must also be fashioned and implemented in a manner that takes all steps possible to keep parents and children united."
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Facebook policy and communications head Elliot Schrage will step down after a decade [Recode] Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp has hired Subject Matter to lobby on “issues related to opioids.”[PoliticoInfluence] Naty Saidoff to Buy Shari Arison’s Company for $310m [Haaretz] Glencore Tests U.S. Sanctions Resolve With Dan Gertler Payments[Bloomberg] CEO of Restoration Hardware Gary Friedman was inspired by Warren Buffett during the home design giant's turnaround [CNBC] Gary Vaynerchuk is launching a new men's media brand about the collision of entrepreneurship and pop culture [BusinessInsider]
MEDIA WATCH -- Will AT&T Be Able to Handle HBO? -- by John Koblin: "Will these telecommunications executives be able to put up with the producers, directors and stars whose work gave the network 29 Emmys last year? And on the personal level, how will the relationship go between Richard Plepler, the smooth-talking, perpetually tanned chief executive of HBO, and the man who would be his new boss, Randall Stephenson, a former national chairman of the Boy Scouts of America? The two executives seem as different from each other as the companies they run." [NYTimes]
Top suitors vying for former Time magazines -- by Keith Kelly: "Ari Emanuel’s William Morris Endeavor is said to be in the game to buy Sports Illustrated, one of four former Time Inc. titles that the current owner Meredith is auctioning off. Mark Shapiro, WME president and a onetime executive vice president and programming director at ESPN, is said to be driving the deal..."[NYPost]
Facebook’s New Political Algorithms Increase Tension With Publishers -- by Ben Sisario: "Mark Thompson, the chief executive of The New York Times Company, accused Facebook of unintentionally “supporting the enemies of quality journalism” by using algorithms that can mischaracterize news as partisan political content. Mr. Thompson was speaking at a panel discussion in New York, which also included Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of global news partnerships... Ms. Brown cited the importance of safeguarding elections and said the problems with political ads were “something we are deeply concerned about. We hear you.” [NYTimes]
SPORTS BLINK -- Nationals owner Ted Lerner, 92, to cede control of clubto his son, Mark -- by Barry Svrluga: "Ted Lerner, the Washington real estate magnate who became the owner of the Washington Nationals a dozen years ago, will cede control of the club to his son, Mark... The move was approved unanimously by baseball’s 29 other owners, who were meeting this week at the league’s offices in New York... Since the Lerners bought the Nationals from MLB for $450 million in 2006, there had been no clear path of succession should Ted Lerner, now 92, step aside... Though Mark Lerner said his father would still have input, the family is preparing for a full transition." [WashPost]
A Literal U.S.-Canada Trade War Over Herring -- by David Singerman: "Today, America and Canada fight over dairy and aluminum. In the late 19th century, they fought over frozen herring—and these trade wars meant real violence... In December 1877, the first of more than two dozen Gloucester ships had arrived in Fortune Bay, in the island’s southeast. But the herring kept the fleet waiting: By Saturday, January 5th, there were still no fish in the bay. On the 6th, the herring appeared at last, and the Americans, eager to bring the first cargoes back to New England, began to lay their seines. Witnesses on board the ships testified later that over two hundred Newfoundlanders “gathered on the beach and demanded that the seines be taken up, giving a pretext that it was unlawful to fish on the Sabbath.” This crowd then began, the Gloucester shipowner John Pew attested in a petition to the Treasury, “a war-like demonstration.” They overpowered the crews, tore up Pew’s seines, and liberated all the herring."[TheAtlantic] The Atlantic's David Graham tweets: YUM! KIPPER WAR
“My Wife Hated the Idea of Marriage, But That Didn’t Stop Her from Proposing to Me” -- by Dan Schwerin, former speechwriter for Hillary Clinton: “Growing up as the daughter of a right-wing rabbi in an Orthodox Jewish community in Southern California, YJ (short for Yael Julie) had chafed at the expectation that a woman’s highest ambition should be to get married as soon as possible and immediately start having babies. When her high school friends found husbands at age seventeen and applied to small Jewish colleges, she charted a different path. Her resistance never faded. In her mid-30s, a fully secular Ivy League–educated lawyer and State Department diplomat, she still felt a fierce need to assert her independence. She even hated going to weddings. The idea of having her own was out of the question." [Vogue]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS -- FRIDAY: Swedish author and psychologist, a survivor of both Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, Hédi Fried turns 94... British billionaire, knighted in 1989, Baron David Alliance turns 86... Co-founder with his father and brothers in 1961 of Canadian radio and television conglomerate Astral Media, he was president and CEO from 1996 until its $3.3 billion sale to Bell Canada in 2013, Ian Greenberg turns 76... Gerald S. Adler turns 76... Former president of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix, Stuart C. Turgel turns 70... Former president of the National Rifle Association (2005-2007) where she has served on the board since 1992, Sandra S. (Sandy) Froman turns 69... Billionaire, vice president of the Eurasian Jewish Congress, he has rebuilt a synagogue and a community center in Estonia, Alexander Bronstein Ph.D. turns 64... President and CEO of the public relations firm Edelman, founded by his father Daniel Edelman in 1952, Richard Winston Edelman turns 64... Born and educated in NYC, he moved to Warsaw in 2000 and became Chief Rabbi of Poland in 2004, Rabbi Michael Schudrich turns 63... Rabbi of Congregation Beth Abraham in Bergenfield, NJ, Yaakov Neuburger turns 63... Beverly Hills-based attorney at Harder LLP specializing in entertainment, intellectual property and litigation, he is a former board member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Jeffrey I. Abrams turns 51... Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and deputy managing editor at The New York Times where he manages the NYT's digital platforms, Clifford J. Levy turns 51... CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash (born Dana Ruth Schwartz) turns 47... News and finance reporter at both CNN and CBS simultaneously, Bianna Golodrygaturns 40... Former director of speechwriting for Hillary Clinton, he was also the principal collaborator on HRC's two memoirs (published in 2014 and 2017), Daniel Baum Schwerin turns 36... NYC-based public affairs manager for DC and regional communications at Google, Rebecca Michelle Ginsberg Rutkoff turns 33 (h/t Playbook)... Director of American Values at the Paul E. Singer Foundation, Joel Winton... Director of Board Relations at Birthright Israel Foundation, Jaclyn "Jackie" Saxe Soleimani... Digital journalist and producer for ABC News, daughter of Max Weinberg (longtime drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band), Ali S. Weinberg Rogin... Elli Sweet... Jimmy Ritter...
SATURDAY: Former Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives, Elaine Bloom turns 81... Former Mayor of Portland, Governor of Oregon and later a member of Jimmy Carter's cabinet, Neil Goldschmidt turns 78... Brigadier-General (retired) in the IDF, then a member of Knesset (1992-1999), since 2007 he is chairman of Ha'aguda Lema'an Hachayal, a non-profit IDF veterans group, Avigdor Kahalani turns 74... Chairman of AG International Law,Allan Gerson turns 73... Graduate and later Dean of Yeshiva College, US ambassador to Egypt (1997-2001) for President Bill Clinton, and US ambassador to Israel (2001-2005) for President George W Bush, Daniel C. Kurtzer turns 69... Rickey Wolosky Palkovitzturns 69... Chief investigative correspondent at Yahoo! News, Michael Isikoffturns 66... Overland Park, KS resident, Matthew Elyachar turns 58... Managing director and founder in 2008 of NYC-based Marathon Strategies, Philip Keith ("Phil") Singer turns 43... Israeli investigative journalist,Ronen Bergman turns 46...
SUNDAY: Undersecretary of State for International Security Affairs in the Carter administration, now a UN Special Representative, Matthew Nimetzturns 79... Winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics, professor at Georgetown and UC Berkeley, he is married to retired Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellin, George Akerlof turns 78... Elected in 2015 as a member of the Knesset for the Zionist Union party, Eitan Broshi turns 68... Commissioner and then Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (2004-2013), now a partner at the law firm of Davis Polk, Jonathan David ("Jon") Leibowitzturns 60... Fashion designer, daughter of Reva Schapira, Tory Burch turns 52... Rabbi Yakov Meir Nagen (born Genack) turns 51... Principal in the Chicago office of Civitas Public Affairs Group, David Elliot Horwich turns 42... VP for the Economic Program at Third Way, Gabriel Aron ("Gabe") Horwitz turns 42... Director of government affairs for the Conservation Lands Foundation, David Eric Feinman turns 39... Rabbi of the Elmora Hills Minyan in Union County, NJ, Rabbi Michael Bleicher turns 34... College football reporter for The All-American, Nicole Auerbach turns 29... Member of the United States Ski Team's alpine skiing program, Jared Goldberg turns 27... Shortstop in the Colorado Rockies organization, he played for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Scott Burcham turns 25... Editor-in-Chief for the international news channel i24News bureau in Washington, Mounira Al Hmoud... Michael Warner... Michael Freund...