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JI INTERVIEW -- This Freshman says he ran for Congress so that Jewish Insider would interview him -- by JI's Aaron Magid: "Why did you run for Congress," we asked New Jersey Congressman Josh Gottheimer... "So I could do an interview with Jewish Insider. It was my entire objective," Gottheimer joked. He added, "I ran because I was in business, worked most recently at Microsoft, and I started my career working for President Clinton and it was a very different time. People actually were willing to work together and sit at the table: Democrats, Republicans and some independents and find some common ground. Too many people I thought were only going to Washington to scream at each other and not solve problems. Like most people, I was frustrated... I flew home one day. I had just worked on developing a product and finished an hours-long marathon meeting. I took the red-eye home from the West Coast that night, walked-in and saw my wife the next morning and said I got this idea and then she sent me out of the room onto the couch for a couple of days.”
The Democrat from New Jersey cited five policies in which he agreed with Trump during the February 28 address: “infrastructure, tax reform, aspects of regulatory reform, a strong foreign policy, and standing by veterans and law enforcement.” While objecting to Trump’s immigration stance, Gottheimer stressed that remaining objective was critical to maintaining credibility. “You have to call balls and strikes,” he asserted... Even during a round of voting, Gottheimer insists on speaking with his young children, Ellie and Ben via FaceTime at 6:30 each evening. He starts his day with an early morning workout session led by former Mixed Martial Arts fighter Markwayne Mullin. His family is a “split household” with the Congressman an ardent Yankees fan while his wife Marla supports the Mets. Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]
DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “White House Seeks to Cut Billions in Funding for United Nations” by Colum Lynch: “State Department staffers have been instructed to seek cuts in excess of 50 percent in U.S. funding for U.N. programs It remains unclear whether the full extent of the steeper U.N. cuts will be reflected in the 2018 budget... or whether, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has proposed, the cuts would be phased in over the coming three years The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides aid to Palestinian refugees, has long been the target of Israeli and congressional criticism on the grounds that it has a pro-Palestinian bias. But one diplomat said UNRWA might be spared because it relieves Israel of the obligation to care for some Palestinians and because Israel sees the program as ultimately promoting stability.” [FP]
ON THE HILL -- A bipartisan group of 167 Members of Congress are calling on President Donald Trump to keep the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism in a letter released yesterday. “As Members of Congress who care deeply about anti-Semitism at home and abroad, we urge you to maintain and prioritize the appointment of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism,” the letter states. [JewishInsider]
'GREAT' DEAL: Jason Greenblatt, Trump's special representative for international negotiations, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for five hours yesterday on his first visit to the region. “In meeting with Israeli PM Netanyahu, discussed regional situation, how progress towards peace with Palestinians can be made and settlements," Greenblatt tweeted following the meeting. In a readout, the PM's Office said the two "continued discussions relating to settlement construction in the hope of working out an approach that is consistent with the goal of advancing peace and security."
-- "In a photo op at the start of their meeting, Mr. Netanyahu greeted Mr. Greenblatt warmly, addressing him as Jason, and said, “I hope we can do some good things together.” Mr. Greenblatt replied, “I think we are going to do great things together.” Once seated, he thanked Mr. Netanyahu for reorganizing his schedule, throwing in a “todah,” Hebrew for thank you." [NYTimes]
“Trump adviser makes first foray into Middle East peace process” by John Reed: “[Greenblatt] will also meet students, religious leaders and businesspeople in the first of what US officials say will be “numerous visits” to the region. “This is a visit where Mr Greenblatt will be listening to Israelis and Palestinians about their views and perspectives, and hearing their thoughts about how peace is possible,” a US embassy official in Tel Aviv said.” [FT] Palestinians say Trump to make ‘historic’ offer to Abbas next month [ToI]
“Advice to Trump’s Middle East Envoy: Don’t Stop with Netanyahu and Abbas” by Daniel Shapiro: “These early visits... represent a unique opportunity to get out of the prime minister’s office and the Muqata’a, and hear the views of other Israeli and Palestinian officials and civilians who will be relevant players in the success or failure of any diplomatic effort Much of the work outlined above will be carried out between envoys’ visits by our diplomats on the ground. But the more the knowledge these engagements produce penetrates the most senior levels of the U.S. government, the more informed and realistic our policy decisions will be.” [FP]
COMING SOON: House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer will all speak at AIPAC’s Policy Conference on March 26-28, AIPAC announced yesterday. Vice President Mike Pence will deliver the keynote address.
KAFE KNESSET -- Bibi and Sarah's day in court -- by Tal Shalev and JPost's Lahav Harkov: Dozens of journalists and cameramen gathered this morning outside the Tel Aviv Court to accompany the PM and his wife Sarah to a hearing in a libel suit the couple filed against journalist Yigal Sarna. The Netanyahus are suing Sarna, who writes for Yedioth Aharonot, for over $75,000 as a result of a Facebook post he wrote last year, in which he alleged that the PM's motorcade stopped in the middle of the main highway and Netanyahu, according to Sarna's post, was kicked out of the car by his wife.
Netanyahu tried to avoid today's testimony and asked the court to postpone the hearing due to his "many international political tasks" but the judge rejected his petition and obliged him to arrive in court today... Netanyahu took the stand, insisting that everything that Sarna described "never happened and is a total lie." His testimony lasted 23 minutes, and judging by the tweets coming from the reporters inside the courtroom, Bibi was well prepared for the show and engaged in back and forth comments during the cross-examination. "New media today is very popular and as influential and strong as what I call classic journalism. Facebook is everything for the young generation," Sarah explained from the witness stand. "We are being slaughtered by the media. If I would sue over every lie that slandered my name in the last 20 years I would spend all my days in court. I choose a case once in a while," she said. Read today's entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
INTERVIEW - Member of the Knesset Yair Lapid, who is visiting the U.S. to lobby against funding for the UN's Human Rights Council, spoke with JI's Jacob Kornbluh last week in the Knesset about holding the UN accountable for its bias against Israel and the need for Israel to maintain bipartisan U.S. support for Israel. Regarding the Trump Administration's policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Lapid said, “We are in the middle of what is known as the PPR (Presidential Policy Review), and I think it will take some time before we know where exactly this administration is going. Yet, this is obviously a very friendly administration. I mean, emotions matter and it is so obvious that this is an administration that is very fond of Israel, and, of course, we are happy about this. Now, how this is going to be translated into policy, we don’t know yet.”
Lapid on the Taylor Force Act: “The idea that the Palestinian Authority is taking U.S. taxpayer dollars and using it to pay the families of terrorists as a compensation for them sitting in jail is an absurdity. This is mocking the American idea of what is justice. Yet, we need to remember that Israel has a security coordination with the Palestinian Authority which is helpful for us, and nobody thinks it’s a good idea to allow the Palestinian Authority to collapse. And therefore, you have to be firm on your attitude towards terror and flexible on your attitude towards the PA. But if you ask me on moral grounds, this bill is the right bill.”
TOP TALKER: "Can You Be a Zionist Feminist? Linda Sarsour Says No" by Collier Meyerson: "The latest fissure making its way into public consciousness is about the role of Zionism in feminism, raised last week by Bustle politics editor, Emily Shire, in a New York Times op-ed... In the days after its publication, Shire’s piece has reignited a debate among feminists about the tenets of the movement. I spoke with Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American feminist activist, who disagrees with Shire’s claim that feminist actions shouldn’t take a hard line on Israel." [TheNation; JPost]
"Is Intersectionality a Religion?" by Andrew Sullivan: "“Intersectionality” is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it’s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity — such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. — but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, that’s my best attempt to define it briefly. But watching that video helps show how an otherwise challenging social theory can often operate in practice..."
"It operates as a religion in one other critical dimension: If you happen to see the world in a different way, if you’re a liberal or libertarian or even, gasp, a conservative, if you believe that a university is a place where any idea, however loathsome, can be debated and refuted, you are not just wrong, you are immoral. If you think that arguments and ideas can have a life independent of “white supremacy,” you are complicit in evil. And you are not just complicit, your heresy is a direct threat to others, and therefore needs to be extinguished. You can’t reason with heresy. You have to ban it. It will contaminate others’ souls, and wound them irreparably." [NYMag]
“Republican Congressman Steve King Sparks Row Over Support for Geert Wilders” by Conor Gaffey: “King’s tweet also drew condemnation from Democrats. Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of defeated 2016 U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, said: “Clearly the Congressman does not view all our children as, well, all our children. Particularly ironic & painful on Purim.” Purim is a Jewish festival commemorating the biblical story of the deliverance of the Jewish people from annihilation by an ancient Persian emperor.” [Newsweek]
2018 WATCH: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren's finance guy Paul Egerman signs on to Setti Warren's potential 2018 bid for governor” by Gintautas Dumcius: “Paul Egerman, a top supporter of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is ready to back Newton Mayor Setti Warren if he mounts a campaign against Gov. Charlie Baker in 2018 Joshua Boger, founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, is serving as the finance committee's chair.” [MassLive]
** Good Tuesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: LeFrak to buy Dumont hotel for $120M, eyeing resi conversion [TRD] Engie, the Israeli car diagnostics app and mechanic marketplace, launches in UK [TC] How Larry Silverstein hustled to rebuild the World Trade Center [RealDeal]
“Zvi Scheiber's Freightos Born Out Of Frustration With Archaic Freight Business” by Bruce Rogers: “Freightos is a fast-growing, Israeli-headquartered SaaS software company designed to simplify the complicated and archaic shipping business. Founded by software engineer and serial entrepreneur Zvi Schreiber in 2012, the firm works with 90 percent of the top freight forwarders and automated 60,000 price quotes in the last quarter... "We are very much like an Expedia for freight," says Schreiber.” [Forbes]
“Kushners Set to Get $400 Million From Chinese Firm on Tower” by David Kocieniewski and Caleb Melby: “The planned $4-billion transaction provides them with both a sizable cash payout from Anbang Insurance Group for a property that has struggled financially and an equity stake in a new partnership The deal would value the 41-story tower (at 666 Fifth Ave) at $2.85 billion, the most ever for a single Manhattan building: $1.6 billion for the office section and $1.25 billion for the retail section. The new partnership will refinance $1.15 billion in existing mortgage debt. "This is a huge, huge exit strategy for an office building," said Joshua Stein, a New York real estate lawyer. "It does sound like a home run of a transaction for Kushner and his group.” . A company spokesman, James Yolles, said that Jared Kushner sold his ownership stake in 666 Fifth to family members so the transaction poses no conflict of interest with his White House role.” [Bloomberg]
“Why Glencore bought Israeli tycoon out of Congo mines” by Tom Burgis: “Glencore’s announcement last month that it would pay $534m to [Israeli mining tycoon Dan] Gertler to buy him out from their shared prize assets in the DRC — two giant copper mines — is designed to insulate the London-listed mining cum trading behemoth from the fallout of a widening corruption investigation involving the Israeli businessman, say people who have followed the saga. The decision by Ivan Glasenberg, Glencore’s chief executive, highlights the risks of doing business in the resource-rich, war-torn central African country, where Mr Gertler wields influence by virtue of his close friendship with Joseph Kabila, the DRC president.” [FT]
MEDIA WATCH: "Is Trump Trolling the White House Press Corps?" by Andrew Marantz: "The next day, the President held another two-and-two, this time with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump’s two questions went to the Christian Broadcasting Network and to Townhall. On the way back to the briefing room, three cameramen stopped outside for a cigarette. “Who’s gonna get the next question at one of these?” one of them said... “At least the Israeli press got to ask tough questions,” another said. “I guess Israel’s still a democracy.” [NewYorker]
"How a Wonky National-Security Blog Hit the Big Time" by Emily Bazelon: "A little over a year ago, Benjamin Wittes, the editor in chief of the blog Lawfare, made the case that Donald Trump, as a Republican presidential candidate, represented nothing less than a national-security threat... The warning was an early sign of the opposition to Trump that has since hardened among the national-security professionals and observers for whom Lawfare serves as a kind of bulletin board." [NYTimesMag]
"Veteran journalist Willow Bay named dean of USC Annenberg" by Beth Shuster: “Willow Bay is exactly the right person to lead USC Annenberg at this important time, given the dramatic changes in communications and journalism,” [USC Provost Michael] Quick said... "Our students, faculty and staff will greatly benefit from Willow’s expertise as they grapple with the ever-evolving world of social media, print and broadcast journalism and converged communication." [USC]
“I Went To Turkey To Interview The President And (Almost) All I Got Was A Meeting With A Conspiracy Theorist” by Jessica Schulberg: “According to [Ankara Mayor Melih] Gökçek, the U.S. and Israel had collaborated to “trigger” a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in the Gulf by sailing up to a coastal fault line and attempting to extract energy. “They couldn’t manage it, just like an atom bomb, the energy inside the ground exploded and it turned into an earthquake,” he said. There’s no evidence of such an occurrence.” [HuffPost]
TALK OF OUR NATION: "How to Host a Shabbat Dinner and Why You Should—Even if You Aren’t Celebrating" by Ariel Feldman: "About halfway through each week, I implore anyone and everyone to “come over for Shabbat.” My requests are often met with blank stares or responses of “but I’m not Jewish?” from friends and coworkers. While I am Jewish, I’m not Orthodox or extremely observant—yet the rituals of this Friday night tradition have become so much more than a religious experience to me. What’s better than winding down the week at home filled with your favorite people and the scent of a chicken roasting in the oven?" [Vogue]
SPORTS BLINK: Meet the Jewish MVP leading Princeton to the NCAA Tournament" by Marc Brodsky: "“We’re battle tested,” [Spencer] Weisz told Jerry Carino of the New Jersey Hoops Heaven website following the victory over Yale and a day after beating Penn in overtime. “These two games kind of give you that feeling of sudden death.” Weisz will be looking to add to a trophy case that includes the gold as a member of the U.S. junior team that won at the 2013 Maccabiah Games, the Olympics-style competition held every four years in Israel. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament." [JTA]
DESSERT: "The Definitive Guide to Kosher Dining in New York City" by Gayle L Squires: "New York City is a haven for the kosher eater. There are at least 300 kosher restaurants in the city (more if you include those with less-stringent supervision), running the gamut from special-occasion steakhouses, to one of the city's best new BBQ spots, to a burger joint that rivals its non-kosher brethren. Focusing primarily on Manhattan, where there's the highest per-capita concentration of kosher spots, we've put together this guide to the city's best kosher restaurants -- making it easy for kosher-law observers to find something for every occasion." [Thrillist]
"Matzo Makeover: Can The Bread Of Affliction Become A Snack Addiction?" by Larissa Zimberoff: "Finally, a piece of matzo you can Instagram. No one has ever been all that excited about matzo, the bread of affliction. But two New Yorkers, Kevin Rodriguez and Ashley Albert, are looking to make matzo — the unleavened bread that Jews eat during the eight days of Passover — as ubiquitous as that other cracker that jumped the cultural hurdle: the pita chip. "The Matzo Project" was born two years ago, about the same time that Streit's was abandoning its century-old home in exchange for the more economical expanse of New Jersey." [NPR]
BIRTHDAYS: One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry's ice cream (Ben is four days younger), Jerry Greenfield turns 66... Professor emeritus of Chemistry at Tel Aviv University, winner of the 1982 Israel Prize, Joshua Jortner turns 84... Founder and President of Los Angeles-based Skirball Cultural Center since 1995, previously EVP and Dean of HUC-JIR (1975-1995), Rabbi Dr. Uri Herscher turns 76... Actor, writer, producer, director, comedian and television host, Billy Crystal turns 69... Member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 1995, representing Howard County, Shane Elizabeth Pendergrass turns 67... Eliezer Barak turns 66... President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and a senior rabbinic fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, Denise (Davida) Eger turns 57... Microgrid architect at Urban Ingenuity, a DC-based consulting firm for advanced clean energy infrastructure projects, Shalom Flank PhD. turns 52... Heiress, together with her brother and cousins, to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, philanthropist, former child actress, Liesel Pritzker Simmons turns 33... Managing Director of Investments at Hefter, Leshem, Margolis Capital Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, Steven Hefter... Sophie Galant... Phil Liebman...
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