Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: June 21, 2018

Is Bloomberg running? | New Jewish Agency Chairman: Isaac Herzog | Sara Netanyahu charged with fraud | Brian Roberts vs. Bob Iger

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, with U.S. President Donald Trump's advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at the U.S. embassy's opening in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, with U.S. President Donald Trump's advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at the U.S. embassy's opening in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018.Credit: Emil salman
JI Staff

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2018 WATCH -- Michael Bloomberg Will Spend $80 Million on the Midterms. His Goal: Flip the House -- by Alex Burns: “Mr. Bloomberg has approved a plan to pour at least $80 million into the 2018 election, with the bulk of that money going to support Democratic congressional candidates, advisers to Mr. Bloomberg said After moving freely between elite circles in both parties for years, Mr. Bloomberg is now poised to become one of the Democrats’ most important benefactors." 

"His spending on House campaigns appears likely to exceed the involvement of donors like Sheldon Adelson, the Republican casino billionaire who recently donated $30 million to a “super PAC” aligned with Speaker Paul D. Ryan Bloomberg's 2018 effort is to be overseen by Howard Wolfson, a close adviser who is a former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.”

“Representative Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, a centrist Democrat who recently hosted Mr. Bloomberg at an event on Capitol Hill, said the former mayor could be most helpful in the “purple-ish” areas where Democrats hope to gain the most ground “From my perspective, I want more pro-business, moderate Democrats in Congress next year.”

FIRST JEWISH POTUS? “In a sign of Mr. Bloomberg’s deep alienation from the Republican Party, he has recently told associates that if he were to run for president in 2020, he would likely do so as a Democrat It is unclear whether Mr. Bloomberg, who would be 78 on Election Day in 2020, is actively contemplating another presidential campaign or simply leaving the door open to the possibility.” [NYTimes

-- Is Bloomberg making a big step to run for president as a Democrat? -- by James Pindell: “I have no doubt that the mayor wants to see a check on the excesses of Trump,” said David Axelrod, former chief strategist to President Obama. “But if Bloomberg, who was a Democrat once, were to announce his full reentry into the party prior to a run, this would be one good way to do it.” [BostonGlobe]

Michael Cohen resigns from RNC committee post, sources say -- by Eliana Larramendia and Zunaira Zaki: “In his resignation letter to Ronna McDaniel, the RNC chair, Cohen cited the ongoing special counsel investigation as one reason for his departureCohen also criticized the administration's policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the southern border, the first time he’s distanced himself from the president. "As the son of a Polish Holocaust survivor, the images and sounds of this family separation policy is heart wrenching,” Cohen wrote.” [ABCNews

RJC AD BUY -- The Republican Jewish Coalition announced yesterday its first independent expenditure of the 2018 election cycle -- a $530,000 ad buy to defend Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick's seat in Pennsylvania's 1st Congressional District. The 30-second ad highlights the first-term incumbent's Democratic challenger Scott Wallace's support of the BDS movement as head of the Wallace Global Fund.

GOP Senate nominee Corey Stewart endorsed Paul Nehlen months after he shared white nationalist content -- by Andrew Kaczynski: "In a video obtained by CNN's KFile, Nehlen and Stewart can be seen together at an event at the Trump Hotel in Washington, DC on November 2, 2017 "He's going to do great work for us in the Senate," Nehlen says of Stewart in the video. "He's going to do great work for us in the Senate. I'm thrilled about Corey. Yeah. Thrilled about Corey running." Stewart, responding to Ruby, says he hopes Nehlen is elected and praises him as a "real conservative." The timing of the endorsement undercuts his current explanation that he had only praised Nehlen prior to him making "bigoted" statements.” [CNN

Memoir by father of Florida state attorney candidate raised as campaign issue -- by Michael Braun: “Standing on the steps of the old Lee County Courthouse (in Florida) on Wednesday, attorney Chris Crowley pitched a challenge to Chief Assistant State Attorney Amira Fox about a 10-year-old book written by her father recounting his life growing up in Palestinian territories. "I'm very concerned about my opponent," Crowley said, "having a radical anti-Semitic, anti-Israel book dedicated to her."" [NewsPress]

AT THE UN -- Allies Disappointed by 'Big Bang' of US Walkout From UN Body -- by Jamey Keaten: “The U.N.’s Human Rights Council resumed work Wednesday after a U.S. pullout that one Western diplomat called a “Big Bang” for the Geneva body, as Russia blasted the move by the Trump administration and key allies expressed disappointment... Defending the move, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said Wednesday "we don't need advice by the U.N. or other international bodies on how to govern ourselves." Bolton told Fox News the decision was made by President Donald Trump weeks ago.” [AP

Haley Blames Watchdog Groups for U.S. Withdrawal From U.N. Rights Council -- by Gardiner Harris: "In a scathing letter, Nikki R. Haley... criticized [human rights watchdog] organizations for opposing her failed push last month for a General Assembly vote on changes to the council." [NYTimes

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM -- Israeli officials concerned by U.S. pullout from human rights council -- by Barak Ravid: “Senior Israeli Foreign Ministry officials tell me the timing of the U.S. withdrawal is problematic because it comes a few months before current UN human rights commissioner Prince Zaid Bin Raad ends his term. They hoped the U.S. would at least stay... to ensure the person appointed for the job is more balanced. The Israeli officials say there are at least two big anti-Israeli initiatives which will be much harder to block or deal with now that the U.S. has left the council: The publication of the database or "Black list" of Israeli and international companies which operate in the Jewish settlements... and the Golan Heights [and] the formation of a commission of inquiry on the violent clashes on the border between Israel and Gaza.” [Axios

Former UN Ambassador Susan Rice tweeted the Axios story, adding: "No sh*t, guys." 

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH -- U.S. close to releasing Mideast peace proposal that Palestinian leadership may immediately reject -- by Anne Gearan, Karen DeYoung and Loveday Morris: "The proposal is likely to be released within weeks, with the aim of beginning negotiations between the parties, perhaps as early as this summer, diplomats and other officials said... “If [Mahmoud Abbas] doesn’t give it a read... well shame on him,” a senior Trump administration official said. “How does that help the Palestinian people?” The exact timing of a release is not set... “We have one shot, right? We want to get it right.” [WashPost

Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt met with Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh yesterday to discuss humanitarian aid to Gaza, and "the Trump Administration’s efforts to facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians," according to the White House. The visit came a day after Kushner and Greenblatt met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman. The U.S. negotiation team will met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and visit Qatar today before heading to Israel for the weekend. 

Ghaith al-Omari, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute, discussed the importance of Kushner's visit to Jordan in an interview with Jewish Insider's Jacob Kornbluh: "King Abdullah is probably the only leader who has good relations with all three main actors: Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S., and as such is seen by the U.S. Administration as a key player. Yet, in recent months there has been some worry in Jordan that it is being crowded out of its traditional role in the peace process. The visit by Kushner serves the dual purpose of consulting with King Abdullah and assuring him of the centrality of Jordan’s role. Nonetheless, the Kushner-Greenblatt trip is said to be focused more on Gaza stabilization than a peace deal, and Jordan’s main role is to bring Abbas to the table. Jordan is the only country that can do that. But given Jordan’s other preoccupations these days, I doubt they are overly eager to expend political capital on applying pressure on Abbas." 

Al-Omari on the Abdullah-Bibi meeting in Amman on Monday: "The Abdullah-Bibi relationship got tense after the Embassy and Al-Aqsa incidents last year. The visit by Bibi was important to clear the air. But I think it is a step too far to say they are coordinating on a peace plan, simply because as of yet this plan has not been revealed, and the two countries have opposing views on some key issues (and similar views and interests on others). Instead, Bibi’s visit focused on other issues, many of which aimed at improving Jordan stability (red-dead canal, West Bank trade)."

Kushner’s ties to Israeli firms at issue as he visits region on peace mission -- by Michael Kranish: "The diplomatic stakes for Kushner are extraordinarily high as he prepares to arrive in Israel on Friday, seeking to fulfill a challenge made by his father-in-law, President Trump, who said last year that if Kushner “can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.” For Kushner, the trip could be a reputation maker or breaker... Aaron David Miller... said Kushner’s Israeli ties make his peace mission even more challenging because of perceptions of bias. In the past, he said, he and some others on the U.S. negotiating team were accused of favoring Israel’s position because they were Jewish, but that “doesn’t even begin to match the pro-Israeli bias” of Kushner." [WashPost]

ON THE GROUND -- 'Israel Might Have No Choice but to Launch a Large-scale Military Operation in Gaza,' Minister Says -- by Yaniv Kubovich: "Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Thursday that Israel might be forced to launch a "large-scale military operation" in the Gaza Strip." [Haaretz

Will Gaza kites lead to war with Israel? -- Shlomi Eldar: "A Hamas source... told Al-Monitor that the leadership was surprised by the kites’ effectiveness... People are getting tired of the demonstrations, sensing that they have served their purpose and that now it is the turn of the kites. That is why for now, Hamas will only turn out limited numbers of protesters, while letting the young people “drive the Israelis crazy with fire,” said the source." [Al-MonitorWhy Palestinians risk their lives to protest near Gaza-Israel fence [NBCNews]

Jason Greenblatt tweets"Hamas continues to fail the Palestinians of Gaza – arson kites & balloons & many mortar & rocket attacks directed against Israelis. How can the international community help when murderous Hamas leaders continue to squander the resources of Gaza? The people deserve better. And now, Hamas & the PA, who have been fighting one another for over a decade, are each cynically claiming that the US is trying to divide Gaza and the West Bank, instead of acknowledging that we are trying to help the Palestinians in Gaza. What hypocrisy."

REPORT -- Netanyahu to extend Ambassador Ron Dermer's term in D.C. -- by Barak Ravid: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided, in an unorthodox move, to extend the term of Israel's ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer by another year... In March last year, Netanyahu passed a decision in the cabinet to extend Dermer's term from four to five years... On Sunday, Netanyahu will pass another decision in the cabinet. The draft decision copy... says that "Special circumstances on the world stage in general and especially in the U.S.-Israeli relationship" call for extending Dermer's term." [Axios; News10]

Isaac Herzog to head Jewish Agency despite Netanyahu's objection -- by Amir Alon and Itamar Eichner: "Opposition leader Isaac Herzog was selected Thursday as the next chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. The Jewish Agency's search committee will present its decision on Sunday to the organization's board of governors and recommend that Herzog serve in the position for four years... Following the committee's decision, Netanyahu decided to cancel a meeting of the coordination committee between the government, the Jewish Agency and the WZO, which was scheduled for Monday." [Ynet]

-- Herzog will assume his new position on August 1st, He is expected to quit the Knesset and step down as Opposition Leader by the end of July. Labor Leader Avi Gabbay, who is not a Knesset Member, will select a new leader of the opposition.

BUZZ ON BALFOUR -- Sara Netanyahu Charged With Fraud for Ordering $100k Worth of Meals From Gourmet Chefs -- by Revital Hovel: "Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was indicted on Thursday for alleged systematic fraud involving hundreds of thousands of shekels in connection with meal expenses incurred at the Prime Minister's Residence." [Haaretz]

Although the prime minister is not implicated in this case, the charges against his wife could have far-reaching consequences for [Netanyahu's] political standing and appear likely to damage his public image." [WashPost]

DRIVING THE CONVO -- Ivanka Trump stayed silent for days as border crisis mounted -- by Catherine Lucey and Jonathan Lemire: "President Donald Trump confided that his daughter urged him to find a solution. But despite days of heart-wrenching images of children being pulled from their immigrant parents, [Ivanka] stayed publicly quiet until Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order designed to keep families together... It wasn’t the first time that Ivanka Trump, as well as her husband... Jared Kushner, had tried to fly under the radar during crisis and tumult in her father’s administration. Kushner has been in the Middle East working on the administration’s peace plan... And Ivanka Trump was in California this week." [AP

Here's What Ivanka Trump's Rabbi Thinks About Families Being Separated at the Border -- by Nicole Goodkind: "[Rabbi Levi] Shemtov, who serves as the spiritual leader of TheSHUL, where Ivanka Trump regularly attends services with her husband and children, says that a solution to the problem will require compromise. “One thing we’ve seen is that everybody yelling at each other is not the solution,” he said. “Perhaps if each of the sides could bring a few people together and find a resolution it would be good not only for the people directly affected but for the nation generally.” ... Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, who oversaw Ivanka Trump's conversion, declined to comment on the situation." [Newsweek

Trump aide Stephen Miller, meet your great-grandfather, who flunked his naturalization test -- by Lisa Belkin: “A photo of Nison (aka Max) Miller stares out from the screen, sullen and stern, in faded black and white. “Order of Court Denying Petition” is the title of the government form dated “14th November 1932,” to which it is attached, the one in which Miller is applying for naturalization as an American citizen. And beneath the photo, the reason given for his denial: Ignorance. Nison Miller is the great-grandfather of White House adviser Stephen Miller “The point isn’t to play ‘gotcha,’” says Renee Stern Steinig, a former president of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Long Island, who first found the Miller naturalization application last summer” [YahooNews]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: CBS Battle With Shari Redstone Moves Forward; Judge Combos Suits, Declines Stay [Deadline]  Tech Entrepreneur Makes Israel’s First Real Estate Purchase With Bitcoin [HaaretzIra Rennert, Arnold & Porter Head Toward Settlement in $214M Malpractice Case [AmericanLawyer] Israeli Consulting Firm Sues Hadassah For $20M Over Missing Compensation [ForwardAshkenazy buys AMC theater for $53M [TheRealDeal]  Starwood sells apartment complex in Pompano to Harbor Group International for $55M [TheRealDeal]

SPOTLIGHT -- Brian Roberts and Bob Iger Go Head-to-Head in the Battle for Fox -- by Cynthia Littleton: "Bob Iger and Brian Roberts are two very different people and leaders, with a history of prickly relations, who want the same thing: spoils of Rupert Murdoch’s empire... The battle between Disney and Comcast has captivated the industry because it’s a rare public brawl over a marquee name — the most high-profile Hollywood M&A tussle since Sumner Redstone and Barry Diller went at it over Paramount Pictures in 1993."

"Those who know Iger say that the motivating reason behind his agreement to extend his contract through the end of 2021 was that he was determined to oversee the Fox acquisition and position Disney for the next century. He knows the Fox deal would be part of his legacy as his retirement looms... Although he’s out on a limb after selling shareholders and investors on the merits of the 21st Century Fox assets, sources who know Iger say he’s not likely to wage a long public fight... Roberts, on the other hand, has more room to maneuver in the bidding so long as Wall Street more or less agrees." [Variety] Bob Iger: Disney Has ‘Much Better’ Chance of Closing Fox Deal Than Comcast [Variety]

MOT STEREOTYPE? The Variety cover is an illustration of Iger and Roberts facing off with aquiline noses created by Tim O’Brien  

PAST HISTORY -- by Edmund Lee: "The bad blood between Disney and Comcast goes back to at least 2004, when Comcast tried to swallow Disney whole. The Disney board fought off that attempt, but Mr. Iger and his top lieutenants have not forgotten it. And Comcast apparently does not have the fondest feelings for Disney: The Jurassic Park rides at the company’s Universal theme parks include Disney’s famous mouse-ears hat floating in the water next to a raft that a dinosaur has destroyed." [DealBook]

Gary Cohn Is Searching for His Third Act -- by William Cohan: "After departing the administration in March, Cohn has split time between his apartment on the Upper East Side and his house in the Hamptons, perhaps quietly pondering his options among his pals and advisers. In April, someone familiar with his thinking suggested that Cohn might entertain becoming the C.E.O. of a media or technology company, or start his own private-equity or money-management firm... Cohn appeared to be pondering less traditional opportunities, too. Anthony Scaramucci, his former White House colleague, told me that Cohn had recently said he was even thinking about doing something in “crypto.”" [VanityFair]

Paul Simon will hold his farewell concert in Queens -- by Rachel DeSantis: "Paul Simon’s final performance on his Farewell Tour will be a homecoming in Queens. The singer will be homeward bound Sept. 22 to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, it was announced Wednesday, wrapping up an international tour that kicked off in May. The concert’s setlist will cover the entirety of his legendary career... All of Simon’s personal net proceeds will be donated to a previously selected cause to be announced at a later date." [NYDailyNews]

SPORTS BLINK -- Abramovich helps sick Israeli children attend World Cup: "Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich has donated a six-figure sum to the Israeli charity "Fulfilling Dreams," which together with other donations, has allowed 30 seriously ill Israeli children to attend the World Cup in Russia, CNN reports... Abramovich was made aware of the charity by his close friend, the former Chelsea manager Avram Grant." [Globes; CNN

England fans filmed performing Nazi salutes and singing anti-Semitic songs in World Cup 2018 bar in Russia -- by Aaron Flanagan: "A group of England fans have been filmed performing Nazi salutes and singing anti-Semitic songs in a bar in Russia. The video features a group of men in Volgograd, the city where England played Tunisia in the World Cup on Monday night, raising their arms and shouting 'sieg-heil'... "We strongly condemn the actions of the people in this video," the FA said in a statement." [Mirror]

BIRTHDAYS: Former member of the US House of Representatives (1993-1995), mother-in-law of Chelsea Clinton, Marjorie Margolies (formerly known as Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky) turns 76... Institutional investment banker in NYC and Greenwich, Connecticut, he is a former US Ambassador to El Salvador (2007-2009), Charles L. Glazer turns 75... British businessman, co-founder with his brother Charles of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi which became the largest in the world, appointed to the House of Lords in 1996, Baron Maurice Saatchi turns 72... UK cabinet minister in both the Thatcher and Major governments, Sir Malcolm Leslie Rifkind turns 72... Creditors rights' attorney at Chicago-area Blitt & Gaines, David Stephen Miller turns 68... Senior counselor at The Reis Group, Peter Perl turns 68... Member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party since 2013, he was the head of Jerusalem branch of the Israel Police (2000-2003) and then an attache at the Israeli embassy in Washington, Mickey Levy turns 67... CEO of Amir Development in Beverly Hills, Keenan Wolens turns 60 (h/t Orna Wolens)... 

Washington Institute fellow and adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins SAIS, David Makovsky turns 58... Former general manager of Bloomberg Politics, Tanya Rebecca Singer turns 45... Former Trump aide, hired and fired three times, Sam Nunberg turns 37... Born in Melbourne, Australia, now living in San Francisco, co-founder and CEO of Kaggle, a data science platform acquired by Google in March 2017, Anthony Goldbloom tuns 35... Manager of Originals Documentary Publicity at Netflix, she was previously a communications officer at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Jacqueline (Jackie) Berkowitz turns 34... Digital editor at the Washington Examiner, she was previously the Washington bureau chief at The Blaze and was a reporter for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Madeleine Morgenstern (h/ts Playbook)... Director of communications and marketing at the New York Community Trust, he is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, David L. Marcus... Susan Gutman... Daniel Padilla...