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TOP-OP: Ron Lauder writes in today's New York Times... "Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wounds: I am conservative and a Republican, and I have supported the Likud party since the 1980s. But the reality is that 13 million people live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And almost half of them are Palestinian. If current trends continue, Israel will face a stark choice: Grant Palestinians full rights and cease being a Jewish state or rescind their rights and cease being a democracy. To avoid these unacceptable outcomes, the only path forward is the two-state solution. President Trump and his team are wholly committed to Middle East peace... and contrary to news media reports, senior Palestinian leaders are, they have personally told me, ready to begin direct negotiations immediately. But some Israelis and Palestinians are pushing initiatives that threaten to derail this opportunity..."
"The second, two-prong threat is Israel’s capitulation to religious extremists and the growing disaffection of the Jewish diaspora... The crisis is especially pronounced among the younger generation, which is predominantly secular. An increasing number of Jewish millennials — particularly in the United States — are distancing themselves from Israel because its policies contradict their values... Sometimes loyalty requires a friend to speak out and express an inconvenient truth. And the truth is that the specter of a one-state solution and the growing rift between Israel and the diaspora are endangering the future of the country I love so dearly." [NYTimes]
Question on our mind -- Does Lauder actually still believe he can broker a legacy-defining Middle East peace deal?
Flashback to April 2017 -- “According to multiple sources, Lauder is the one who has convinced Trump that ‘the ultimate deal’ between Israelis and Palestinians is achievable, a deal that has eluded each of Trump’s immediate predecessors. Lauder is said to have told the President that the Palestinians are ‘desperate’ for a deal and that ‘Israel is the problem.’” [JewishInsider]
Lauder honored in Jerusalem today: "World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder and outgoing Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein had their names immortalized on Monday at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue. Lauder and Hoenlein were honored with the dedication of walls on either side of the ark. One wall is named the “Ronald and Jo Carole Lauder Prayer for the State of Israel Wall” and the other, the “Malcolm and Frayde Hoenlein Prayer for The Security and Emergency Services Wall.” ... “Nothing could more reflect our commitment to Israel and the Jewish people,” Hoenlein said. “Ronald’s and my grandchildren will be able to come here and look at the walls proudly and say that their grandparents made a difference.” [JPost]
Jonathan Weisman writes “Anti-Semitism Is Rising. Why Aren’t American Jews Speaking Up? I have personally seen the anti-Semitism, in online insults, threatening voice mail messages and the occasional email that makes it through my spam filter Yet American Jewish leaders — the heads of influential, established organizations like the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Federations of North America — have been remarkably quiet, focused instead, as they have been for decades, on Israel, not the brewing storm in our own country.” [NYTimes]
--American Jewish Committee responds on Twitter: "Jonathan Weisman reveals the problem some have dealing w/ anti-Semitism. For him, it’s all about the right. That’s a big threat of course, but he fails to mention danger from the left, Nation of Islam, etc. Why? Trifocal, not monofocal, lenses are needed."
"D.C. lawmaker says recent snowfall caused by ‘Rothschilds controlling the climate’" by Peter Jamison and Valerie Strauss: "D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) posted the video to his official Facebook page... as snow flurries were hitting the nation’s capital... The video... shows snowy skies while White narrates. “Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control... And D.C. keep talking about, ‘We a resilient city.’ And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.” ... In a series of text messages, he confirmed the voice in the video is his but expressed surprise that his remarks might be construed as anti-Semitic... However, about four hours after The Washington Post published this story online Sunday, White sent a statement of apology via text message. “I work hard everyday to combat racism and prejudices of all kinds. I want to apologize to the Jewish Community and anyone I have offended,” he said." [WashPost]
Rep. Keith Ellison writes “I Have Fought Against Hate My Entire Career: I do not have and have never had a relationship with Mr. Farrakhan, but I have been in the same room as him I have not been in any meeting with him since then, and he and I have no communication of any kind. But as the attacks on me and my fellow Black representatives in Congress intensify, I want to be clear: this is a smear by factions on the right who want to pit the Jewish community and the Black community against each other, and distract from the hatred and bigotry on display by the president and the white supremacists who stormed Charlottesville this summer with their anti-Semitic chants and Confederate flags.” [Medium]
HEARD YESTERDAY -- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer at the COJO of Flatbush legislative breakfast in Brooklyn: “The long-term danger for Israel is something we don’t think about enough: The young people in America do not know Israel’s story. If you look at the polling data, they don’t know what Israel has gone through and their support for Israel is declining. In every part of the country, every age group, even among young Evangelicals, support for Israel is declining. I had an hour lunch, just me and Bibi Netanyahu and this was the subject -- because it is so important We need to alert the young people to the truth.”
Schumer also boasted: “I am, baruch Hashem, the highest ranking elected Jewish official ever in America.” [Video]
-- Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon presented the COJO of Flatbush Distinguished Chesed Award to fertilizer tycoon Alex Rovt. [Pic]
VIEW FROM RAMALLAH -- "Palestinians believe US delaying peace plan for a post-Abbas era - report" by Khaled Abu Toameh: “They [the Americans] know that President Abbas will not accept this plan,” the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper quoted an unnamed senior Palestinian official as saying. “They are betting on the time factor.” The US administration is preparing for the day when there will be Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who “would not be able to reject the peace plan and would have to deal with it gradually." [ToI]
-- Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh: "Any suspicious political solution that does not meet the hopes and aspirations of our people for freedom and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital will not pass." [Xinhuanet]
"Israeli military destroys Gaza tunnel, underground military complex" by Oren Liebermann: "The Israeli military destroyed a Hamas tunnel in southern Gaza on Sunday morning and struck an underground "military complex" in central Gaza, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said... Tensions between Israel and Gaza have remained high ever since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December. Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza have regularly called for "Days of Rage," fueling wide-scale protests along the Gaza border." [CNN; Video]
RISING PROFILE -- “Nauert's meteoric rise takes State Department by surprise” by Matt Lee and Josh Lederman: “The moment that Trump canned Tillerson by tweet, [Heather] Nauert was in a Hamas-built tunnel on the border near the Gaza Strip, on a tour organized by the Israeli military to show U.S. officials the smuggling routes used by militants. Caught by surprise by the move back in Washington, Nauert cut the tour short and returned to Jerusalem to deal with the crisis. Soon, Trump also fired the undersecretary of state who publicly defended Tillerson. The president named Nauert to that suddenly vacant position, near the top of the hierarchy of American diplomacy.” [AP]
TOP TALKER -- "What Hope Hicks Knows" by Olivia Nuzzi: "Over dinner in Bedminster in early August, [Hicks] told Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump that she was unhappy... Sharing her frustrations, Jared and Ivanka engaged her idea with caution; they asked her to give General John Kelly, the new chief of staff, a chance to change the West Wing for the better... Yet, if she waited, she probably couldn’t avoid the impression that she was leaving because of a crisis, because there was always a crisis. If she’d resigned in August, they’d have said it was owed to Charlottesville. In December? Mueller or Roy Moore. January? Fire and Fury."
"Hicks met [Matthew] Hiltzik in Texas during Super Bowl XLV (in 2011), at a tailgate with Alec Baldwin, who starred in a movie Hicks had auditioned for... But Hicks made an impression on Baldwin’s then-rep, and within a few years, she was handling the Trump Organization account at Hiltzik Strategies and working closely with Ivanka Trump... Trump also had a different relationship with Hicks than he did with his children, who keep what the source called “ironic distance” from their father. “He knows that Ivanka has a separate agenda. Ivanka refers to him as ‘DJT’ just like the boys do, and Ivanka understands that her father is gonna be dead in ten years.” [NYMag]
Hillary Clinton says Ivanka Trump will not be the first female president -- by Jessica Kwong: "Hillary Clinton was quick to shoot down the prospect of Ivanka Trump becoming the first woman president of the United States when asked about it on Dutch TV last week. “That’s not going to happen,” Clinton responded. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “No, we don’t want any more inexperienced Trumps in the White House.” ... The report that Ivanka Trump wants to follow in her father’s footsteps surfaced in Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury... “The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton; it would be Ivanka Trump,” the book stated." [Newsweek]
TRUMP TUMULT -- "Newly Emboldened, Trump Says What He Really Feels" by Maggie Haberman: “The president has his own original style, and it’s unlikely to be changed at this stage of his life,” Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, said in an interview. “But it also is conducive to bringing forward opportunities like this Korean conversation. It is not what we traditionalists would have recommended in the first place. But I have to say, when I have thought it through, and how it could play out, it could restore a political initiative to us, and could compel a conversation with countries” otherwise disinclined." [NYTimes]
"Trump's firings signal hawkish turn on North Korea and Iran" by Julian Borger: "James Carafano, vice-president of the Heritage Foundation, said: “Tillerson wanted to preserve the deal but the instructions were ‘Fix it in the way I want or we walk away from the deal’, and Pompeo will do that.” Carafano said Tillerson’s firing demonstrated Trump’s increased confidence in his own instincts in foreign policy. Tillerson and other top aides told Trump his decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem would spark an eruption of unrest across the Middle East in December. The actual response was muted." [TheGuardian]
Fareed Zakaria: "Pompeo should recognize that his job as secretary of state will be to solve problems, not produce them, and he should preserve the Iran accord and spend his time on North Korea." [WashPost]
-- “Sen. Bob Corker says he thinks Trump will pull out of Iran deal in May” by Kathryn Watson: "The Iran deal will be another issue that's coming up in May, and right now it doesn't feel like it's going to be extended," Corker said. "I think the president likely will move away from it, unless our European counterparts really come together on a framework. And it doesn't feel to me that they are. Now, as we get within two weeks of the May 12 date, that could change." Asked by Brennan if he believes the president will pull out of the deal, Corker responded, "I do. I do." [CBSNews] European powers propose new Iran sanctions to meet Trump ultimatum [Reuters]
2018 WATCH -- "Emanuel feigns neutrality, but teases support for Pritzker" by Fran Spielman: "On Thursday, [Rahm Emanuel] came about as close as ever to going public with his support for [J. B.] Pritzker. It happened when WGN-AM Radio’s morning host Steve Cochran asked the mayor a pointed question. “If J.B. Pritzker wins, how can I or anybody in this state feel comfortable he’s gonna work for the state and not for Mike Madigan?” Cochran said, referring to the embattled Illinois House Speaker who doubles as state Democratic Party chairman... “It’s simple. The problems are at a breaking point. And I think J.B. knows this is his one chance at political leadership and he has to leave the state better than he inherited,” the mayor said." [ChicagoSunTimes]
2020 WATCH -- "Sen. Jeff Flake eyes 2020 primary challenge to stop Trump" by Steve Peoples: "Flake has powerful friends who could help, however, including the outspoken anti-Trump billionaire Mark Cuban. "I'm a Jeff Flake fan," Cuban told The Associated Press." [AP]
BUZZ ON BALFOUR -- “In Israel’s Poorer Periphery, Legal Woes Don’t Dent Netanyahu’s Appeal” by Isabel Kershner: “The seeming dissonance between a rise in the polls and the prime minister’s deepening legal troubles makes complete sense to Mr. Netanyahu’s defiant base in Kiryat Malachi and in other strongholds of his conservative Likud party. In these parts, Bibi, as he is lovingly nicknamed, is extolled as a popular hero who is persecuted by a liberal news media; a leader without peer whose peccadilloes are easily forgiven “We are all Bibi,” said Erez Madar, 33, a hairdresser in Kiryat Malachi. “Let him have a cigar. He deserves an airplane.”” [NYTimes]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Saudi Fund Said to Take $400 Million Stake in Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor [Bloomberg] Last Head of Bear Stearns Alan Schwartz Taking on Wall Street Goliaths at Guggenheim [WSJ] Kushners' Cadre Startup Benefited From Misleading Rent Filings [Bloomberg; AP] New York hotelier Stephen Brandman and developer Jake Chetrit are opening two landmarked Beaux Arts hotels in Los Angeles under the Journal Hotel collection [NYPost] How Debriefing Like The Israeli Air Force Can Help Your Business [Forbes] Ben Rubin's Meerkat was the darling of SXSW in 2015. Here’s why it pivoted three months later and became Houseparty [Recode]
STARTUP NATION'S FUTURE -- As we near the 10th anniversary of the publication of Start-Up Nation, the book's co-author Dan Senor spoke last week at the Jewish Funders Network conference on where Israel's economy is headed: "For three millennia, Israel has been at the crossroads of empires. Now Israel stands at a new crossroads -- it's a new global geography of innovation. Ten years ago, innovation was primarily happening in the rich, developed world. Israel was partnering with North America and Europe. Today, the fastest growing innovation ecosystems are to be found in big developing countries, like India and China. And these countries are partnering with Israel to solve their biggest problems."
"Jack Ma, the founder and chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba is part of the flood of Chinese business leaders to recently visit Israel. In addition to acquiring an Israeli start-up, Alibaba announced plans to set up an office in Tel Aviv as part of a $15 billion global R&D initiative. China is now the source of more than 10% of the total capital raised by all Israeli start-ups... Israel has established 28 Centers of Excellence around India to improve agricultural yields by 5-10 times. Multiplied across the subcontinent, such increases could produce the second agricultural revolution that India needs to contend with a growing population, fast growing youth unemployment, urbanization, and the demands of an expanding middle class."
SPOTLIGHT: "Welcome to Powder Mountain – a utopian club for the millennial elite" by Paul Lewis: "The story of how [Elliott ]Bisnow and his friends – [Jeff] Rosenthal, Ryan Begelman, Jeremy Schwartz and Brett Leve – came to occupy their bubble on a mountaintop in Utah has become something of a legend. It began in 2008, when Bisnow... cold-called entrepreneurs he admired and invited them on an all-expenses-paid trip to Utah. Bisnow shouldered the cost of the 19-strong gathering on his credit card, then repeated the trick with another get-together in Mexico, racking up $75,000 in debt. Bisnow and the others quickly coalesced a sort of “mutual aid society” for young, well-connected businessmen, which in the early days included the co-founders of Twitter and Facebook and the real-estate heiress Ivanka Trump."
"Having finessed the art of persuading rich people to pay to join these getaways, the founders convinced their friends to help them buy an entire mountain in Utah, complete with 10,000 acres of some of the best ski terrain in the US. They bristle at the idea that they’re trying to build a high-altitude utopia for plutocrats, but then casually refer to a segment of their clientele as “the billionaire set” – and don’t hesitate to mention that their mountain happens to be located between towns named Eden and Paradise." [TheGuardian]
LongRead: "Why Jewish History Is So Hard to Write" by Adam Kirsch: "What does being a Jewish historian in the twenty-first century allow one to see, and what does it obscure? These are the questions raised by two major new surveys of the subject: “A History of Judaism” (Princeton), by Martin Goodman, and “The Story of the Jews: Volume Two: Belonging, 1492-1900” (Ecco), the newest installment of a trilogy by Simon Schama. In certain obvious ways, the two books present very different approaches to the topic. Goodman, as his title declares, is interested in the history of Judaism—that is, of the religious ideas and practices that have defined Jewish life over the millennia... Rather, Schama is fascinated by figures like Dan Mendoza, a celebrity boxer in late-eighteenth-century England, and Uriah Levy, a Jewish lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, who purchased Thomas Jefferson’s house, Monticello, in 1834..." [NewYorker]
"Learning to Pray When Words Fail" by Deborah Gastfreund Schuss: "Julie Shulman —an Orthodox Jew deeply immersed in her faith—wanted to enhance her husband’s practice of Judaism. Today she helps reintegrate others suffering from aphasia into communal religious participation. As she agitates for public educational and inclusion efforts of the sort that better-known disorders receive, she has come to view the religious community as a natural ally." [WSJ]
“Jonathan Sacks at 70 reinvents himself as the ‘cartoon rabbi’” by Michael Freedland: “Having celebrated his 70th birthday last week, Jonathan Sacks is maintaining his reputation as one of the world’s best-known rabbis by launching several new projects to reach more people than ever. “I’m moving faster and faster. I’ve got my Rollerblades on,” he says His website is already being peppered with millions of hits from people viewing a series of “whiteboard animations” of Sacks talking about Judaism. Each video begins with a woman’s delicate hand sketching a caricature of Sacks. As he goes into his topic, subtitles, other faces and bodies appear, and buildings come alive How does Sacks cope with the inevitable mental strain of keeping up his prodigious output? “I have a gym upstairs, including various weights and a treadmill. And I walk a lot on Hampstead Heath — when it’s not too cold.”” [TheTimes]
SPORTS BLINK: “Man Behind U.M.B.C. Twitter Account Also Takes a Victory Lap” by Malika Andrews: “The human behind the triumphal stream was Zach Seidel, 27, the director of multimedia communications and digital for the athletic department. For a couple of hours on Friday night, he was the voice of the ultimate underdogs, the about-to-be-vindicated sports fan who got to revel in something historic — with an audience of millions high-fiving his every remark. “People I haven’t talked to in years were texting me, ‘Hey, I still have your number from school,’ ” Seidel said in a phone interview late Friday night. “ ‘I know we only hung out a few times, but oh my God, you’re killing it on Twitter.’ ”" [NYTimes]
"The Secret Behind the Greatest Upset in College Basketball History" by Freeman Hrabowski, President of UMBC: "We’ve defied the odds before. Three decades ago, nobody believed you could close the achievement gap between white and underrepresented minority students, who were disproportionately likely to be lower-income and to be less academically prepared, without adjusting academic standards. But UMBC and the philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff didn’t believe it had to be that way... We started the Meyerhoff Scholars Program to support, challenge, and mentor underrepresented minority students in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Today, the university is a top producer of African-American graduates who go on to earn PhDs in the sciences, and is the leading producer of ones who go on to earn MD-PhDs." [TheAtlantic]
MEDIA WATCH -- “NBC News’ Andy Lack is not a fan of Facebook” by Alexandra Steigrad: “At lunch with journalists at NBC last week, Lack pooh-poohed the platform for NBC Digital and other publishers in general. “Facebook doesn’t have any value to publishers really — that’s the dirty little [secret],” Lack told The Post. “They take all the value.” As a result, NBC is “pulling back” on working with the social media firm after it had conversations with the company regarding its concerns.” [NYPost]
“Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Under Pressure Over Data Breach” by Sara Frier: “Government officials in the U.S. and Europe are demanding answers from Facebook Inc. after reports that Cambridge Analytica, the advertising-data firm that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency, retained information on tens of millions of Facebook users without their consent. Over the weekend, entreaties for the social-media giant to take responsibility evolved into calls for Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to appear in front of lawmakers.” [Bloomberg]
SCENE LAST NIGHT IN LA -- Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson announced a new $13 million gift to the Israeli-American Council (IAC) at its 10th annual gala at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. In total, the IAC raised more than $16.5 million at the event, including a $1 million pledge from Haim Saban.
DESSERT -- Trump Hotel in Scotland to Be 'Kashered' for Pesach: “A Chareidi man from London has rented out a Trump hotel in Scotland and is turning it Kosher for Pesach. Aryeh Wagner is the person in charge of Kosher catering for all royal functions that take place in any of the royal buildings in England, as well as meals taking place in the residence of the Prime Minister that have Jews in attendance When asked if Trump’s Daughter and Son-in-Law Ivanka and Jared Kushner will be attending, Wagner said: “I am not at liberty to discuss the guest list..." [YeshivaWorld]
"'There is no kosher meat': the Israelis full of zeal for going vegan" by Oliver Holmes: "From a tiny faction of outliers just five years ago, Israeli vegans now say they make up 5% of the country’s population, a higher percentage than anywhere else in the world. An estimated 500 restaurants are vegan or have substantial plant-based dishes on their menus... “Veganism is almost mainstream,” said Ori Shavit, a consultant for Israeli restaurants... Judaism has helped too, she says, because the kosher diet means Jews, even many secular ones, have a culture of checking what is in their food." [TheGuardian]
"Landmark Worcester, Massachusetts Jewish restaurant Weintraub’s beset by health-code violations" by Mark Sullivan: "Two years shy of its 100th anniversary, Weintraub’s Jewish Delicatessen at 126 Water St. is showing its age. Customers these days are few... A vintage sign in the window read “kosher,” but the deli, more accurately described as kosher-style, has not been officially certified kosher since the 1970s, when the original owners dispensed with the weekly visits from the rabbis." [Telegram]
BIRTHDAYS: Philanthropist, art collector and chairman emeritus of The Estée Lauder Companies, Leonard A. Lauder turns 85... Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, whose books focus on Jewish life and identity, Philip Roth turns 85... Israeli politician, the daughter of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, she served as a member of the Knesset for three different parties (1999-2003), Dalia Rabin-Pelossof turns 68... Disgraced former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein turns 66... Author and journalist, best known as the first female executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson turns 64... NYC-based real estate investor and chairman of Turtle Pond Publications which invests in new media, he is one of three co-founders of the Tribeca Film Festival, Craig Hatkoff turns 64... EVP of merchandising at American Signature Furniture, a Schottenstein company, Steve Rabe turns 58... Writer, musician and radio commentator, he was founder and lay leader of the South Berkshire Minyan in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Seth Rogovoy turns 58 (h/t Playbook)... Neurologist in Naples, Florida, Brian D. Wolff, MD turns 56... Online producer, writer and director, who together with his brother Rafi, are best known for their React video series which have billions of YouTube views, Benny Fine turns 37... Founder of the Brave Collection, a Brooklyn-based company that sells hand-made Cambodian jewely and donates 10% of its profits to support a Cambodian anti-human-trafficking organization, Jessica Hendricks Yee turns 30... Aaron Bock...