Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: March 14, 2018

Interview with the ‘Hin-Jew’ in Congress | Zakheim, Indyk on Pompeo | Inside the WH Summit on Gaza | BDay: Jerry of Ben & Jerry’

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson steps away from the podium after speaking at the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, March 13, 2018.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson steps away from the podium after speaking at the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, March 13, 2018. Credit: Andrew Harnik/AP

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SCENE LAST NIGHT -- This is what it looks like when the President holds a fundraiser in a gated community -- by Brian Bennett and Seems Mehta: "President Trump left the Beverly Park mansion of Shari and Edward Glazer after spending several hours talking to Republican donors. The Glazer residence — a brick home painted tan with a slate-colored roof — sits at the end of a cul-de-sac. Beverly Park is a gated community... Current and former residents include media magnates Sumner Redstone and Haim Saban... Donors who paid a minimum of $35,000 and up to $250,000 per ticket arrived at a staging area down the hill from the house in the early evening. They were brought up to the fundraiser in golf carts, passing a row of magnolia trees along the way. Edward Glazer is co-chairman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Glazer, 48, is the son of the late billionaire Malcolm Glazer. In addition to the Bucs, his family owns the Manchester United soccer team." [LATimes; ABC7]

REXIT -- "In the end, no one was more surprised that Tillerson was fired than Tillerson" by Anne Gearan and Carol Morello: "Tillerson’s firing caps a rough couple of weeks. His father died Feb. 25. Two days after returning to Washington from the funeral, he departed on his trip to Africa... What may have done him in was a fatal disconnect over what Trump saw as Tillerson’s conventional approach to policy matters... A part of Tillerson’s legacy is pushback on Trump policies that Tillerson considered unwise, battles he did not often win. He advised Trump to keep the United States in the Paris climate agreement and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has threatened to renounce this spring. Tillerson also opposed the unilateral decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy there..." [WashPost

"Trump fires Steve Goldstein, a top Tillerson deputy, in State Department shake-up" by Kylie Atwood: "The White House has fired State Department Under Secretary Steve Goldstein just hours after his boss... was let go Wednesday morning. The White House called Goldstein to tell him he is no longer needed..." [CBSNews]

HOW IT PLAYED -- "Tillerson’s Ouster Could Kill the Iran Nuclear Deal" by Michael Crowley: "No wonder Pompeo’s fellow Iran hawks are ecstatic. “For anybody who thought that Trump was bluffing about his May 12 deadline to fix the deal or nix it, the appointment of Mike Pompeo as secretary of state should be a wake-up call,” said Mark Dubowitz, an executive at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who has close ties to the Trump administration." [Politico; HuffPostTillerson's Exit Hurts Iran Deal, But Not Korea Talks [BloombergView]

"U.S. general signals support for Iran nuclear deal" by Idrees Ali: "“The JCPOA addresses one of the principle threats that we deal with from Iran, so if the JCPOA goes away, then we will have to have another way to deal with their nuclear weapons program,” said U.S. Army General Joseph Votel... "Right now, I think it is in our interest” to stay in the deal, Votel said." [Reuters

DRIVING THE CONVO -- "Pompeo can make the State Department great again" by Josh Rogin: "[Mike] Pompeo is in a unique position to right the ship partly because has more influence with President Trump... Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement that Pompeo will be more effective on the world stage because foreign leaders will know he speaks for Trump..." [WashPost; AP]

Dov Zakheim, former Under Secretary of Defense in President George W. Bush's administration, tells us... "On balance, particularly if you think about the upcoming negotiation between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, it's probably a very smart move. Pompeo gets along very well with the president. He was able, because of that relationship, to essentially eliminate the president's constant critique of the intelligence community. You have to credit Pompeo. My understanding is morale at the agency is quite good. What does that mean? It means that you now have a Secretary of State that the President feels comfortable with. I think it's very important that the president have somebody that he feels good with. Also, Pompeo has been very solid on the Middle East. Excellent relationship with the Israelis. Excellent relationship with the Sunni Arabs. Very hard on the Iranians. All in all, it's definitely a change for the better." 

Q: Will Pompeo seek to get more involved in the Israel file than Tillerson had been? 

Zakheim: "I think he's clever enough to know not to mess with the President's family until the President decides his family needs to go back to New York. It's not obvious what Jared [Kushner] has actually accomplished. The consensus continues to be that he's way, way over his head. He hasn't demonstrated to anyone that he's not over his head, but again, why should Pompeo upset the President? If a peace deal is delayed another few months, so that Jared and Ivanka can decide they want to go back to New York, and then Pompeo takes it over, my guess is that's what he'll do. He's not going to push for that. He's too clever to push for that." 

Aaron David Miller emails us... "Trump will now have a competent loyalist as his Secretary. What this will do, particularly if [H. R.] McMaster leaves, is it'll create real uncertainties about U.S. policy-making among allies and adversaries alike at a time when smooth decision-making and public and private signaling on North Korea, China and Iran will be required.”

Martin Indyk on Pompeo: “Pompeo appears to have the trust of the President and, as CIA Director, managed to win the trust of the nation’s spies - no easy task. He is a seasoned politician and has a record of brilliant academic achievement. He is a hard-liner to be sure but not an ideologue. He’s well-suited to take on the multiple challenges to the international order from hard-liners like Putin and Xi. I doubt he’ll bother to challenge Kushner’s grip on a dying Middle East peace process. But he’d be wise to insist on full visibility and consultation, and State Department representation in the peace team.”

HEARD AT THE CALCALIST CONFERENCE -- Former CIA Director James Woolsey commented on the appointment of CIA Director Mike Pompeo to U.S. secretary of state, which was made known earlier that day. “He is a very able individual,” Mr. Woolsey said. “A candid man who is clear about what he thinks and ‘plays it straight.’ I think he will be a good secretary of state.” The conference was hosted by Calcalist in collaboration with Bank Leumi and the Israeli Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage. [CTech]

NEXT TO GO? "Trump Eyes Replacing His Veterans Affairs Secretary With His Energy Chief" by Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos: "President Trump... is considering firing his secretary of veterans affairs and installing Energy Secretary Rick Perry in the post... The president has grown impatient with the department’s current secretary, Dr. David Shulkin, and may want to replace him with someone already in his cabinet." [NYtimes]

-- "Inside the White House, speculation has mounted that [H. R.] McMaster's time is running short. But the timing of any potential departures has been tightly held, leading to a sense that Trump could tweet at any moment -- without forewarning -- to make personnel changes." [CNN]

WHITE HOUSE SUMMIT ON GAZA -- Representatives from 20 countries, including several Arab nations that don’t yet have formal ties with Israel joined Israeli officials around a single table yesterday at the White House for a six hour long meeting to discuss steps to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority, which the Trump administration is hoping takes control of the Gaza Strip, boycotted the meeting. "At our encouragements, people put their politics at the door," senior administration officials noted, describing the meeting as "very productive."

In opening remarks, Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt said, "An essential part of achieving a comprehensive peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, including those in the West Bank and Gaza, will be resolving the situation in Gaza." Jared Kushner then presented specific ideas for nearly two hours, which the White House did not disclose.  

A senior administration official told Jewish Insider that the level of success in talks about Gaza will not depend on the expected Trump peace plan. "Ultimately, we need to fix Gaza for a variety of reasons whether we reach a peace agreement or don't reach a peace agreement. I think we view them as separate issues."

Asked if Pompeo will become more involved on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the administration official said, "The State Department has been an essential tool for us throughout this process. They have a lot of talented people who work there who support our efforts tremendously. I think it'll be a seamless transition, and we look forward to working with Mike Pompeo on this." 

ON THE HILL -- At an event at the Senate Dirksen Building on Capitol Hill, Ambassador Dore Gold, former Director General of Israel's Foreign Ministry and currently president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, delivered a presentation to approximately 100 legislators, staffers and think tank members entitled, “Jerusalem: What Is At Stake?” Introducing Gold, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer noted, “President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is shock therapy for Palestinian rejectionism, and one of the first positive steps in decades to advance peace. Once the dust has settled, the importance of this historic step toward peace will be all the more evident.”

Gold: "When President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he was correcting decades of diplomatic distortions at the United Nations. He was also fulfilling the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, the bi-partisan initiative co-sponsored by Senators Tom Daschle and Bob Dole, calling for the moving of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. This was the greatest gift the United States could give to Israel on the 70th anniversary of its birth.” [Pic]

"GOP resolution condemning anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan puts pressure on Dems" by Brooke Singman: "Republican Congressman Todd Rokita is calling on the House of Representatives to condemn anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, putting pressure on several House Democrats who have had ties to him... Rokita’s resolution is similar to one passed in 1994—when Democrats controlled the House. The resolution condemned a leader of the Nation of Islam, and passed with support from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif." [FoxNews]

JI INTERVIEW -- Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) discussed his relationship with the Jewish community in Illinois and his position on Israel in an interview with Jewish Insider's Jacob Kornbluh following an event in NYC on Monday. "Both my children went to JCC schools and felt very comfortable there because they were the best schools available. And so they were in some ways culturally Jewish, even at the same time they were religiously Hindus," said Krishnamoorthi, 44, who was born in India and first elected to Congress in 2016. "I consider myself a Hin-Jew, a Hindu with great affection for the Jewish people." He first visited Israel 10 years ago on a trip sponsored by Project Interchange, an educational institute of AJC. Excerpts below; full interview here [JewishInsider]

On Louis Farrakhan: "I have to disassociate with him. I've never met him, I've never spoken to him. But I probably will never meet him because of the vile and reprehensible remarks he made about Jews, but also other people. That has no place in America. That is not the America that I want my children to live in. And so I'm going to continue to fight against intolerance against all communities." 

On Israel possibly becoming more of a partisan issue: "I do fear that Israel is going to become a partisan issue. I'll be honest with you. I feel that some have decided that they were going to make Israel almost a part of their conservative evangelical agenda, and they basically said, 'We're going to do X, Y, and Z for Israel, and part of that deal is X, Y, and Z on this other issue. And once you did that, once you linked those, then there's going to be people on the other side who push back because they might like one part of that, but they don't like the whole package. I think that the relationship between Israel and the United States is a special relationship, and it's one that we have to always keep outside of politics, whatever we can, however we can. And if we do that, I think both countries will benefit in the long term." 

GALLUP VS. PEW -- According to Gallup, Americans Remain Staunchly in Israel's Corner: "Americans' stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is as strongly pro-Israel as at any time in Gallup's three-decade trend. Sixty-four percent say their sympathies in the dispute lie more with the Israelis, tying the high previously recorded in 2013 and 1991... The percentage of Republicans sympathizing with Israel increased from 59% in February 2001 to... a new high of 87% this year. At 49%, Democrats' preference for Israel is up from 42% in 2001... Currently, 74% of U.S. adults view Israel favorably... Israel's current favorable score is the highest for that country since 1991." [Gallup]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR -- "Netanyahu Clinches Deal to Avert Israeli Government Collapse" by Jonathan Ferziger: "The agreement came after a day of see-sawing negotiations and Netanyahu’s pledge to make a “supreme effort” to avert the collapse of his government more than a year before the end of its term... “I promised and I delivered,” Netanyahu said in a brief speech to parliament after the agreement was arranged... Opponents accused Netanyahu of orchestrating the impasse to trigger an election that could bolster his standing before a possible indictment on influence-peddling charges." [Bloomberg]

** Good Wednesday 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Wall Street puzzled by Goldman Sachs’ public succession process [NYPost]  Elliott Management looks to target life insurance with US acquisition [FinancialTimes]  Weinstein Co. Is Just the Latest of Ron Burkle’s Hollywood Follies [Variety] In Jerusalem, HBO Exec Says the Network’s Budget Is Being ‘Raped’ by Game of Thrones and Big Little Lies [Vulture]

STARTUP NATION -- “Meet the Israeli start-up that seeks to quash terrorist diamond smuggling” by Max Schindler: “6 Degrees has created a device that can inscribe diamonds with an invisible bar code, creating a way to track every diamond worldwide and cut down on billions of dollars worth of terrorist and criminal trafficking in precious stones The company uses laser-inscribing machinery to invisibly encrypt an ID on the girdle – the widest part – of the diamond The device has been patented in the US and Israel, among other countries.” [JPost]

How Israel is becoming the world’s top cyber superpower: “Because going to the service is compulsory, you can look at the Israeli army as the largest HR organization in the world,” said Roni Zehavi, the CEO of CyberSpark Unit 8200, for example, used to be a closely guarded secret because it's believed to be responsible for the STUXNET cyber-attack that sabotaged the Iranian nuclear program. The skills these soldiers learn in units like 8200 are extremely profitable on the free-market. Former Israeli soldiers have brought their military and technological know-how to the private sector and created companies that specialize in cyber defense and offense.” [ViceNews]  

“After spy is poisoned, Britain mulls closing door to London for Russia's rich” by Polina Ivanova: “One possible counter-measure, suggested by British lawmaker Tom Tugendhat, could involve denying Russia’s so-called oligarchs access to the luxuries of London Most prominent among the residents of “Londongrad”, as the British capital has been nicknamed for its popularity among the Russian elite, are Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov, respectively owner and major shareholder of the English football clubs Chelsea and Arsenal.” [Reuters]  

MEDIA WATCH: “Family of slain Democratic staffer Seth Rich sues Fox News” by Oliver Darcy: “The family of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Fox News, one of the network's reporters, and a wealthy Texas businessman over their roles in the publication of a baseless conspiracy theory about Rich's 2016 death "No parent should ever have to live through what we have been forced to endure," Joel and Mary Rich said in statement Tuesday night Leonard A. Gail, the attorney representing the Rich family, said in a statement that "Joel and Mary Rich have brought this case" to hold the defendants "accountable for their reprehensible actions."” [CNNMoney]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “The First Time a White Person Wrote ‘Love’ to Me” by Anna Deavere Smith: “In 1961, there was a widely held theory among educated Baltimore Negroes that if you wanted your children to have a good public school education, you should send them to a school that was predominantly Jewish, because Jews valued learning. And so I was sent to Garrison Junior High in the Forest Park neighborhood, from which gentile whites had fled when the Jewish population moved in. I wasn’t “bused,” but I had to take two buses to get there Homeroom seating was alphabetical. In front of me sat a white Jewish girl whose mother was a violinist in the Baltimore Symphony. Yet, when my new classmate and I glanced at each other for the first time, I felt as though I’d known her for a lifetime. As far as I was concerned, undiscovered forms of hilarity were always welcome My birthday falls in that month. That first year, the violinist’s daughter gave me a book of poems and a card. She signed the card “Love, Ruthie.” She was the first white person in my life who used the word “love” in relation to me.” [NYTimes

DESSERT: "San Francisco’s Frena expands" by Alix Wall: "When Frena Bakery and Café opened over a year ago on San Francisco’s Sixth Street downtown corridor, owners Isaac Yosef and Avi Edri always had plans for expansion. Earlier this month, they announced a second location in the Richmond District, set to open in late spring or early summer." [JWeekly]

BIRTHDAYS: One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Jerry Greenfield turns 67... Professor emeritus of Chemistry at Tel Aviv University, winner of the 1982 Israel Prize, Joshua Jortner turns 85... 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 77... Actor, writer, producer, director, comedian and television host, Billy Crystal turns 70... Member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 1995, representing Howard County, Shane Elizabeth Pendergrass turns 68... Eliezer Barak turns 67... Encino, California resident and co-founder of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, Gila Milstein turns 65... Managing Director of Investments at Hefter, Leshem, Margolis Capital Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, Steven Hefter turns 64... 

Immediate past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and a senior rabbinic fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, Denise (Davida) Eger turns 58... Microgrid architect at Urban Ingenuity, a DC-based consulting firm for advanced clean energy infrastructure projects, Shalom Flank, Ph.D. turns 53... Philanthropist, former child actress, Liesel Pritzker Simmons turns 34... NASCAR driver, he is the sole inductee into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in the "Auto Racing" category, Jon Denning turns 31... Sophie Galant... Phil Liebman...