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DRIVING THE WEEK: "He believed in 'Power Rangers' when nobody else did, and it turned him into a billionaire" by Meg James: "For Saban, the Power Rangers have long been his trusty sidekicks, catapulting him into the Hollywood limelight. To coincide with the movie premiere, the Israeli American mogul on Wednesday will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — another notch in his noisy and kinetic career. A shrewd deal maker, Saban has parlayed audacious bets into vast wealth and political influence. Forbes estimates his worth at $3 billion. His empire includes interests in real estate, apps and online games, an Israeli phone company, Asian TV channels and an ownership interest in the struggling Spanish-language media company Univision Communications..."
“Many people underestimate him,” said fellow mogul Peter Chernin, the former Fox president who now runs his own entertainment firm. “But if you look at his career, Haim [Saban] has been at the forefront of where big trends and opportunities are heading.” ... Since the election, he has been busy forging a new relationship — with Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President Trump who has a prominent role in the White House, helping steer foreign policy... “At first I thought, maybe it was a mistake, a kind of Oscar-snafu where they give the prize to the wrong person,” Saban said. “I consider myself a cartoon schlepper, and for a cartoon they gave me a star. I’m humbled and grateful.” [LATimes]
--Flashback: Connie Bruck profiled Saban in the New Yorker in 2010 -- "The Influencer: An entertainment mogul sets his sights on foreign policy" [NewYorker]
JUST IN: "US boycotts UN rights council debate on Israel, Palestinians" by The Associated Press: "The State Department says the United States is boycotting a session at the U.N. Human Rights Council that focuses on Palestine and other Arab occupied territories, saying it is biased against Israel. State Department spokesman Mark Toner in a statement took aim at a recurring agenda item at the council, which focuses on Israel and the Palestinian territories — the only one of its kind to focus on a single country at every HRC session... Toner also said the United States would vote against every resolution that might be put forward under the agenda item." [AP]
TEHRAN WATCH: "Here's one country where hard-liners might not be poised for election success: Iran" by Shashank Bengali and Rabin Mostaghim: "Iran’s conservatives have been vocal in their criticism of President Hassan Rouhani, dismissing his outreach to the West as naive and the nuclear deal he championed as an economic failure. But when it comes to challenging the moderate Rouhani for reelection in May, the hard-liners, who oppose expanding political and social freedoms, are struggling to agree on a message or candidate." [LATimes] Trump Policy Uncertainty Clouds Iranian-Americans' Investment Plans [Bloomberg]
INBOX ...in response to the Jewish leader who told us last Thursday: "This [Dina Powell appointment] is the worst. She was responsible for the money that was supposed to go to Iranian dissidents and she gave it to NIAC (National Iranian American Council), which is one of the worst of the worst groups. The Deputy NSA is not a minor position."
Elliott Abrams, who served as deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration, emails us... "The line (or accusation) “she gave it to NIAC” is false. In 2007 the National Endowment for Democracy gave a grant to NIAC. I have checked carefully, and neither State nor Dina had anything to do with that grant. No one at State recalls any State grant to NIAC, not from any part of State under Dina nor from any part of State at all. So your informant has almost certainly -- and erroneously -- attributed the NED grant to State and to Dina. My memory is that all of us in the Bush administration, including Dina, had a dim view of NIAC and would not have given it a dime. We at the NSC worked closely with Dina and would have consulted on such a proposal—and rejected it."
DRIVING THE CONVERSATION -- Trump Fails to 'Shoot Iran’s Little Boats Out of the Water' -- by JI's Aaron Magid: Speaking at a crowded campaign rally in Pensacola, Florida last September, then Republican nominee Donald Trump issued a stern threat to Tehran. Responding to a recent incident where Iranian ships harassed a US navy patrol, Trump warned, “With Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures -- that they shouldn't be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water." Only months into Trump’s presidency, Iran has continued its provocative actions, south of the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard ships were not “shot out of the water.”
Jonathan Schanzer, VP for Research at the Foundations for the Defense of Democracies: "What we are looking at is an evolving Iran policy... We’ve certainly seen tougher rhetoric and an inclination to use sanctions, but I don’t think a policy has fully taken shape yet... We have seen a President who is rather committed in following through on his campaign promises. This, I think, has been a point of pride for this Administration. I wouldn’t discount the possibility of a US challenge to the Iranians in this regard... The context of [Mike] Flynn putting Iran on notice and reportedly having a very robust policy regarding Iran and then his exit shouldn’t be ignored. It’s not to say that there isn’t continuity between Flynn and McMaster but some of this still remains to be seen."
JINSA's Michael Makovsky: "That is the difference between campaigning and governing. I think he’s right what he said and it’s very important that we do such things and signal the Iranians that there is a new sheriff in town. I just don’t think they are ready yet to embark on such a policy... The key is if they harass our ships, we have to sink them. He’s (Trump) right. We can’t look like we’re afraid of a confrontation. On the contrary, we need to show that we are not afraid and we are fully prepared for one. If the Iranians misbehave, then we’re going to push back." Read in full here [JewishInsider]
HEARD YESTERDAY -- The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg on CBS's Face The Nation: "On matters of life and death, I'm not confident yet that these guys can handle a crisis, because, remember, nothing really has happened yet in the Trump administration. There's been no terror attacks, nothing of North Korean magnitude." [Mediaite]
"Trump’s foreign policy doctrine: Escalate to de-escalate" by Josh Rogin: “Trump may want to escalate in certain areas to force a negotiation where actors might not be interested or willing to negotiate otherwise.” [WashPost] While Trump talks tough, US quietly cutting nuclear force [AP]
WAR ROOM: “In One Rocky Week, Trump’s Self-Inflicted Chaos on Vivid Display” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman: “The public outbursts are mirrored by internal tensions A new realignment has emerged in a West Wing already rived by suspicion and intrigue. Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive who serves as the president’s top economic policy adviser and who is decidedly more liberal than the rest of Mr. Trump’s inner circle, is on the rise, and has the ear of the president’s powerful son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Kushner also gained an ally on the National Security Council with the appointment of Dina Powell as a deputy for strategy.” [NYTimes]
“Inside Trump’s White House, New York moderates spark infighting and suspicion” by Philip Rucker and Robert Costa: "Kushner and Cohn are particularly close with the Cabinet’s industry barons — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — as well as Chris Liddell and Reed Cordish, two businessmen recruited by Kushner to work on long-term projects Many people inside and outside the White House frequently note the growing visibility of Cohn and Powell and wonder if they might eventually gain influence over Trump’s message and moderate it from Bannon-style populism Sometimes when staffers feud, Kushner summons them to his office, a few doors down from the president’s, where the 36-year-old adviser sits them on the couch and mediates as though he were a couple’s therapist, officials said.” [WashPost]
President-in-law: "What China wants from Trump" by Jonathan Swan: "The Chinese ambassador in Washington — Cui Tiankai, a silky operator — has been focusing intensely on the White House rather than the State Department, particularly cozying up to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. One source says Cui has been dealing mostly with Kushner, and has been AWOL at State." [Axios]
Spotted at the King David yesterday: Sen. Tom Cotton. Our source did not see Senators Rubio or Cornyn, although they were with Cotton in Beirut on Saturday [Pic] Cotton joined Jake Tapper's State of the Union show from Jerusalem [Pic]
STATE-SIDE VISIT: "Netanyahu chief of staff heads to US to sort out settlements" by Marissa Newman: "Netanyahu’s chief of staff Yoav Horowitz... will join Ron Dermer, Israel’s Washington ambassador, to continue discussions with US special envoy Jason Greenblatt in an attempt to reach an understanding between Israel and US President Donald Trump’s administration about building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Netanyahu left Israel on Saturday night for a three day trip to China, and the fact that Horowitz did not accompany the prime minister but went instead to Washington highlights the importance of the negotiations with the US." [ToI]
“Ahead of First Mideast Visit, Trump's Peace Envoy Met With Obama Negotiators to Seek Advice” by Amir Tibon: “[Jason] Greenblatt reached out to Frank Lowenstein, who was the special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in John Kerry's State Department from 2014 to 2017, and Dennis Ross In his conversations with these former negotiators, just like during his visit to the region last week, Greenblatt mostly listened and took notes.” [Haaretz]
“All Trump wants is an Israeli-Palestinian deal” by Nahum Barnea: “Greenblatt worded the White House statement during Netanyahu’s visit to Washington. In the statement, Israel was urged to restrain its settlement policy... “Why did you include this paragraph?” he was asked by a friend. “Did Netanyahu imply that he needs it in order to curb the pressures from the Right?” Greenblatt appeared surprised by the question. “We didn’t even think about it,” he said. “I included the paragraph because I thought it was the right thing to do.”” [Ynet]
VIEW FROM SHOMRON: “'Trump may condemn Israel at some point - and that's ok'” by Shimon Cohen: “Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, one of the regional heads who met with Greenblatt, spoke with Arutz Sheva about his meeting When asked how optimistic his meeting with Greenblatt left him, Dagan answered: "I'm not euphoric, because my expectations and demands as an Israeli citizen are aimed at our Prime Minister I [anticipate] that the Trump Administration may condemn Israel for the settlements and possibly for other things. I have no requests from the US administration, but I am confident that he won't 'go to war' over condemning [construction] and that he won't pick a fight over it.”” [INN] Slightly higher number of Jews approve Trump’s job performance than had voted for him [Gallup]
KAFE KNESSET -- Crisis not averted -- by Tal Shalev and JPost's Lahav Harkov: Did you think the public broadcasting crisis was behind us? Think again. We are definitely still in crisis mode. Netanyahu is currently in China, celebrating 25 years of Sino-Israeli diplomatic relations. But just before he took off Saturday night he dropped a political bomb and left his confidants to deal with the consequences. “Either the Israel Broadcast Corporation is cancelled – or we will go to elections,” the premier announced on Saturday. This posed a crystal-clear ultimatum to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and backtracked from previous understandings between them. The whole political system was thrown into havoc, and Bibi – well, he got on the plane, leaving everyone back in Israel wondering what exactly he wants. Is he serious about elections? Will he bring down the government because of a public broadcast channel? And why does he keep on picking fights with Kahlon, after making a point of getting close to him last month over a plate of hummus? Read today's entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
“U.N. Diplomat Behind Report Accusing Israel of Apartheid Quits” by Rick Gladstone and Somini Sengupta: “Rima Khalaf’s resignation also reflected the pressure from the Trump administration on her boss, Secretary General António Guterres. President Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, has assailed what she and Israeli officials regard as a strong anti-Israel bias at the organization. “When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the U.N., it is appropriate that the person resign,” Ms. Haley said in response to Ms. Khalaf’s resignation.” [NYTimes]
PROFILE: “Can Chuck Schumer Check Donald Trump?” by Elizabeth Kolbert: “Schumer, who’s sixty-six, is an optimist, a trait that he says he inherited from his father, Abe. Abe, for his part, inherited an exterminating business from his father, Jack, a Jewish immigrant from Ukraine. The family lived in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and Schumer, growing up, would sometimes lend a hand killing roaches In 1974, the State Assembly seat for the district that included Flatbush came open. Fresh out of Harvard Law School, Schumer decided to run for it. His mother, Selma, urged her neighbors not to vote for him. Schumer had an offer from the prestigious law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Selma didn’t want him wasting his time when he could be making good money.” [NewYorker]
“Al Franken may be the perfect senator for the Trump era — a deadly serious funnyman” by Karen Tumulty: "Nearing the halfway mark of his second term, Franken said, he feels “a little freer to be myself, and so every once in awhile, something comes out.” He has many sides. During slow periods in committee hearings, Franken sometimes sketches elaborate portraits on a notepad. If he does not take them when he leaves, Senate staffers scoop up the Franken doodles as collector’s items But he is also part of the club. When the bells rang for a vote on a recent afternoon, Franken and four colleagues crowded onto a Senate subway car. “We have Franken here to make us laugh!” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) announced. Which they all did.” [WashPost]
“Eric Greitens, Missouri’s First Jewish Governor, Is Eyeing The White House” by Nathan Guttman: “After Greitens’s speech at the RJC conference last month, a major Jewish Republican donor walked over to the press area to make sure reporters listened to the governor’s address dedicated to the recent spate of anti-Semitism in his state. “That’s our guy,” he said, “you’ll be hearing about him.”” [Forward]
** Good Monday 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: For developers trying to influence the president, the White House is no Trump Tower [TRD] Hedge Fund Titan William A. Ackman’s Surefire Bet Turns Into a $4 Billion Loss [NYTimes] Why Music Mogul Irving Azoff Is Snapping Up Tiny Trade Magazines [WSJ] CEO Stewart Butterfield says Slack is growing up, but maybe not going public [Axios]
“Lemonade Is Using Behavioral Science To Onboard Customers And Keep Them Honest” by Ainsley O’Connell: “That deceptively simple claims process is the byproduct of academic research on psychology and behavioral economics conducted by Dan Ariely, one of the field’s most prominent voices and Lemonade’s chief behavioral officer “There’s a lot of science about when people behave and misbehave that has not been put to use,” says Lemonade cofounder and CEO Daniel Schreiber. Some of that science would suggest design tweaks like signature placement; other ideas are more fundamental to Lemonade’s B Corp business model, like the decision to donate surplus premiums to charity.” [FastCompany]
“Salt Bae set to sprinkle at new Midtown restaurant” by Christopher Cameron: “The restaurant is being backed by Turkish billionaire Ferit Sahenk, the media mogul behind the conglomerate, Dogus Group. Real estate moguls Alex Sapir and Rotem Rosen are also said to be backing the restaurant, according to the New York Post. Sahenk, Sapir and Rosen also own Zuma at 261 Madison Avenue and the Nomo Soho Hotel.” [TRD]
Trump spent Saturday night with Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter “A Saturday pool report indicated Trump would be dining Saturday night with Perlmutter and his wife, with the dinner closed to press. Perlmutter, an Israeli-American who served in the Israeli Army and who advises Trump on veterans affairs, has previously met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago.” [Politico]
Trump on Friday: “Ike Perlmutter is an amazing man — Marvel — is one of the great, great businessmen of our time.” [WhiteHouse]
"Robert Kraft flew on Air Force One with Donald Trump" by Hayden Bird: "On Sunday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft flew on Air Force One with President Trump from West Palm Beach to Washington D.C., according to the White House press pool report. And, as the report noted, Kraft wore his Air Force 1 sneakers: A pair of black canvas Nikes. The pool report didn’t specify why Kraft was on Air Force One, but it said that Trump briefly introduced “Bob Kraft” before making a comment about North Korea." [Boston]
BOOK REVIEW: Elliott Abrams reviews “Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, Leader, Statesman” by Itamar Rabinovich"Mr. Rabinovich explains the steps by which the tough military leader came to abandon his promises to Israeli voters, but not his underlying motivation. The only deeper explanation we are offered is striking: “In private conversations with confidants Rabin expressed concern over the Israeli public’s and the IDF’s ability to shoulder the price of a long-term, seemingly endless conflict.” Rabin had collapsed in the lead-up to the 1967 war from nervous exhaustion and been out of action for two days. Did he project his own fatigue onto the nation? If so, he greatly underestimated Israel’s stamina... Mr. Rabinovich acknowledges that while it is “quite realistic” that Rabin would have won the 1996 elections, “that he would have come to an agreement with Arafat is less so.”" [WSJ]
TALK OF OUR NATION: "Prague's Old-New Synagogue gets first new Torahs since World War Two" by Jiri Skacel: "Prague's medieval Old-New Synagogue received two new Torah scrolls on Sunday, the first ones since World War Two shattered the country's once-thriving Jewish community. The Torahs, funded by donations to the Prague Jewish community, were written in Israel and brought into the synagogue in a ceremony that included scripting of the final letters by guests and members of the community, and a street dance. The Old-New Synagogue is over 700 years old, one of the oldest existing synagogues in Europe. Apart from its significance to the community, it is the main attraction of Prague's Jewish Town, a popular destination for visitors." [Reuters]
"Law partners call themselves 'Double Trouble' and always wear pink outfits to court" by Graham Rayman: "Sartorial twins [Sara] Shulevitz and [Mindy] Meyer are both Orthodox Jewish women practicing criminal law — a rarity in the gritty hallways of the city’s legal world. “We comply with Orthodox Jewish rules of modesty, but we like to wear pink,” Shulevitz said... “They say a woman’s place is in the house,” said Meyer, who in 2012 became the youngest person ever to run for state Senate as a Republican. “I say it’s in the courthouse, but I remain steadfast to my values.”" [DailyNews]
"Inside a Met Director’s Shocking Exit and the Billion-Dollar Battle for the Museum’s Future" by William D. Cohan: "Then there was the series of unfortunate events that began, in April 2013, with Leonard Lauder’s extraordinary gift of his unmatched collection of 78 Cubist paintings, drawings, and sculptures... valued at more than $1 billion. “In one fell swoop this puts the Met at the forefront of early-20th-century art,” [Thomas] Campbell said at the time... According to the former administrator, Lauder got the better of Campbell over the terms and conditions of the donation. “If you put Leonard Lauder and Tom Campbell in the room in a negotiation, I don’t think Tom Campbell would emerge victorious,” this person says." [VanityFair]
SPORTS BLINK: “American Eagle’s Schottenstein Negotiating to Buy Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball” by David Israel: “Jay Schottenstein, chairman of American Eagle Outfitters and DSW (formerly Designer Shoe Warehouse) is in talks to acquire control of the basketball club Maccabi Tel Aviv, at a value of $35 million, Calcalist reported on Sunday. The club’s major shareholders are David Federman, controlling shareholder of publicly traded Petrochemical, and the Recanati family, the former controlling shareholder of IDB – each of whom holds 29% of the club’s shares. American businessman Richard Dietze holds 17.5% of the shares, American real estate magnate Ben Ashkenazi holds 10% of shares. The team’s annual budget is about $75 million.” [Calcalist; JewishPress]
DESSERT: “San Francisco’s Frena is the kosher bakery you’ve been waiting for” by Jessica Yadegaran: “Israeli owners Isaac Yosef, Avi Edri and fourth-generation baker Yanni (who goes by first name only) had little idea just what a niche they were about to fill with their baked goods “The focus in San Francisco is on sweets,” Yosef says. “It’s hard to find a good sandwich in a bakery anymore. So we decided to do something about it.” The mother of all sandwiches is their sabich ($10.49), which is filled with mashed potatoes, oven-roasted eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, Israeli pickles, tomatoes, tahini and tangy amba, a mango condiment.” [MercuryNews]
BIRTHDAYS: Philanthropist, visionary, pioneer in corporate social responsibility, former CEO of family-owned Timberland which was sold in 2011 to VF Corporation, Jeff Swartz turns 57 (celebrating both English and Hebrew birthdays today)... Senior advisor to the family office of Charles Bronfman, previously President of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies and SVP and COO of UJA-Federation of New York, Dr. Jeffrey R. Solomon turns 72... Actor, director, producer and writer of comedy whose career spans nearly seven decades, Carl Reiner turns 95... Stage and screen actor, television director and musician, best-known role as the title character in the television comedy series "Barney Miller," Hal Linden (born Harold Lipshitz) turns 86... Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences as a geologist and oceanographer, but known popularly as poet and performer, Alexander Gorodnitsky turns 84... Australian award-winning writer of Portuguese Sephardi descent, author of fiction, non-fiction, screenplays and poetry collections, David George Joseph Malouf turns 83... Award-winning author of 25 children's books, Louis Sachar 63... Israel's Chief of Police (since 2015) after a 27 year career at Shabak (a/k/a the Shin Bet), Roni Alsheikh turns 54... Chilean businessman and philanthropist with substantial mining interests, Leonardo Farkas turns 50... Journalist, author, and lecturer and Editor-at-Large for Esquire, Arnold Stephen "A. J." Jacobs, Jr. turns 49... Actor, podcast host, director and comedian, has acted in more than forty films, Michael Rapaport turns 47... Development associate at Urban Investment Partners, a multi-family and mixed-use development firm in the DC area, holder of both a B.A. and MBA from GWU, Jason Lifton turns 28... Director at West Wing Writers since 2014, previously director of online content at the super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, Matt Finkelstein (h/ts Playbook)... Ehud Lazar... Hyman Grossman...
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