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DRIVING THE DAY -- Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will meet with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at noon today for the start of a 3-week U.S. visit. In the hour and 15 minutes designated for the meeting, the President and the Crown Prince will discuss the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran’s aggression in the Middle East, and Israeli-Palestinian peace among other topics, senior administration officials said in a background briefing yesterday.
"One of the things we've heard consistently from the region both from the Saudis, Emiratis and the Israelis is that they didn't really have a relevant voice in the process of the JCPOA and so [Trump] wants to make sure that their views are heard and that we understand their security concerns as we move forward," a senior administration official explained. "We'll discuss the peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians, and the situation in Gaza," the official added, and the U.S. will "thank the Saudis for their participation in the Gaza conference" at the White House last week.
“How Jared Kushner forged a bond with the Saudi crown prince” by Carol D. Leonnig, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Greg Jaffe: “One year ago, two young princes began to forge a friendship at a lunch meeting in the White House’s regal State Dining Room. A snowstorm had kept away President Trump’s scheduled guest that day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel — giving the president and his advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner, more time to spend with the visiting son of Saudi King Salman They consulted with one another frequently in private calls over the following months Kushner is now set to play a major role hosting the crown prince as he arrives in Washington Monday to kick off a tour of United States. In addition to official meetings, he is scheduled to attend several dinners with Mohammed, along with other U.S. and Saudi officials."
“Allies and aides described his personal outreach to Mohammed as unconventional yet effective “President Trump has given Mr. Kushner the important task of overseeing the peace process, and this has been the primary subject of discussion between Mr. Kushner and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince,” [a senior Saudi] official said... Kushner’s unique role was evident a few weeks ago when White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly asked a question in an intelligence briefing about a sensitive policy matter related to Saudi Arabia in preparation for the crown prince’s visit. In response, intelligence briefers told him that virtually all of the conversations that U.S. officials had with the Saudis on the matter had been between Kushner and Mohammed.”
“As Mohammed kicks off his U.S. tour, Kushner is continuing his efforts to work with the crown prince and others to develop an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, associates said. In the end, the president’s son-in-law emphasized to aides last week, he hopes to be judged not on the process, but on the results." [WashPost]
MEANWHILE IN RAMALLAH -- Mahmoud Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a 'son of a dog': “The US ambassador in Tel Aviv is a settler and a son of a dog,” Abbas said in comments to Palestinian leaders in Ramallah on Monday... In response to Abbas, Friedman, who is Jewish, told a conference that Abbas’s comments could have antisemitic connotations. “His response was to refer to me as ‘son of a dog’. Is that antisemitism or political discourse? I leave that up to you,” he said." [TheGuardian; WSJ]
Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt in a statement: "The time has come for President Abbas to choose between hateful rhetoric and concrete and practical efforts to improve the quality of life of his people and lead them to peace and prosperity. Notwithstanding his highly inappropriate insults against members of the Trump administration, the latest iteration being his insult of my good friend and colleague Ambassador Friedman, we are committed to the Palestinian people and to the changes that must be implemented for peaceful coexistence. We are finalizing our plan for peace and we will advance it when circumstances are right."
Aaron David Miller emails us... Abbas' attack on Friedman is a result of "frustration combined with catering to the street. He can’t be perceived to be passive on settlements or somehow bowing to the U.S. on the issue. It’s grist for Friedman’s mill of course and unwise to personalize, but it reflects the reality that Abbas has nowhere to go."
IPF's Michael Koplow tweets: "There is no scenario in which is it ok for a foreign leader to call an American ambassador a son of a dog. Doesn’t matter what prompted it. But I would be remiss if I did not gently point out that this particular ambassador is not always an exemplar of polite discourse."
Dan Williams: "In January, Donald Trump threatened to cut US aid to the Palestinians after they declined to meet visiting VP Pence. How will he respond to Abbas personally insulting Friedman, his longtime lawyer and adviser?" [Twitter]
SIGHTING -- Ambassador Friedman visited a matzah bakery and participated in the baking process during a visit to Kfar Chabad earlier today [Pic]
HEARD YESTERDAY -- Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett publicly criticized World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder for his op-ed in the New York Times during back-to-back appearances at the opening session of the 6th annual Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem: "Ron, I read your piece in the New York Times - not a great piece. I very much respect you, but I disagree. Assimilation in America is not a result of Israel’s policy but a result of Jewish prosperity in America. It is an ongoing trend we have to fight back against. I don’t see [the] moral equivalence of settlement building – what I call building communities in our homeland – and Palestinian incitement. It’s not the same thing."
-- "U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who was in attendance, clapped along with the audience after Bennett's statement." [Haaretz; Video]
Lauder responded to Bennett at the start of his remarks: "Naftali, we may disagree on many things, but when it comes to Jewish life and fighting anti-Semitism, and what it means to be a Jew, we are 100 percent there. And the Jews in Diaspora are with you a hundred percent."
In a video captured by Maariv diplomatic correspondent Yanir Cozin, Bennett is seen confronting Lauder as he entered the hall for the plenary session: "What are you doing? What are you doing, man? What are you doing?” Lauder: "You are my inspiration." Bennett: "I am your inspiration? Say that, and I am going to lose 5 seats in the Knesset." [Video]
Chemi Shalev writes... "Lauder’s J’Accuse Against Netanyahu’s Israel Is Also a Mea Culpa: Lauder may not be “King of the Jews,” as his predecessor Edgar Bronfman was dubbed, but he is the closest thing that world Jewry has to a senior statesman who can represent the consensus of the Diaspora as a whole. In the eyes of many Jews, Lauder is “Mr. Establishment.” ... Lauder’s article is an expression of the severity of the developing schism between Netanyahu’s Israel and American Jews." [Haaretz]
BEHIND THE SCENES -- "Negotiators think it's a long shot to satisfy Trump on Iran deal" by Barak Ravid: “A senior European diplomat who participated in the talks told me that the gaps between the U.S. and the three European powers are actually closing... The U.S. and the European powers are close to an agreement on sanctions against Iran's intercontinental ballistic missiles program. The gaps were narrowed on sanctions against the Iranian activity in the Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen... Big gaps remain on the U.S. demand to significantly fix the "Sunset clause" in the nuclear deal... The European diplomat told me... "We are much closer to an agreement with the U.S. delegation than we have ever thought we will be. We are not optimistic but we keep trying. It's like a roulette with a 50:50 chance. But our fear is that even if we get a deal with the American negotiators there is a big chance that Trump will just tear it up and announce he is withdrawing from the deal."" [Axios; Nana]
“Israel prepares for 'May Madness'” by Ben Caspit: “The month of May is shaping up to be “May Madness,” a take on the “March Madness” of collegiate basketball. According to Israel’s intelligence and political echelons, President Donald Trump’s policies will be tested in May on numerous fronts that have implications for Israel’s national security There is great satisfaction in Jerusalem over the change in US policy on Iran thanks to Trump. According to an intelligence source... recent Israeli intelligence reports assess, “Instead of policy leaning toward an arrangement with Iran and viewing the country as a strategic partner, the Americans now classify Iran as a key threat to their interests....” In Israeli eyes, these changes follow a pattern: numerous, fundamental changes in US foreign policy in Trump’s first year in the White House.” [Al-Monitor]
“MK Steinitz: Iran deal should be extended indefinitely” by Gil Hoffman: “Asked about the possibility that US President Donald Trump could decide to pull out of the deal, Steinitz said: “I would prefer a fixed version of the agreement, with changes in the length of the agreement and its surveillance.”” [JPost]
"What happens the day after Trump pulls out of the Iran deal" by Josh Rogin: "The Treasury Department is working on the logistics of “snapping back” various sanctions, including restoring Obama-era executive orders that the deal rescinded... After that, there’s no certainty how other powers will react... The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies... recently convened a group of about 20 senior Iran and non-proliferation experts to game out scenarios, the results of which were compiled in a memo... shared with State, NSC and Treasury... FDD senior adviser Rich Goldberg, a longtime critic of the Iran deal, worked with [Mark] Dubowitz to compile the memo. He said that preparing for the day after the United States exits the deal is the best way to prevent what deal supporters warn will happen: war with Iran." [WashPost]
"Pros and Cons of Trump's Random Foreign Policy" by Noah Feldman: "The very same unpredictability that makes life difficult for opponents also makes coordination much harder for nations that want to cooperate. Your friends need to know what you plan to do next, or at least know which option you’re most likely to take, in order to act in concert with you. It’s not realistic for allies to consult the U.S. about every last detail of their foreign policy conduct." [BloombergView]
TURTLE BAY -- "Germany’s shameless power play against Israel" by Benny Avni: "Berlin is set to block a historic chance for raising the Jewish state’s international profile. The issue is a fight for seats on the top UN body, the Security Council. Germany, a major UN donor, mover and shaker, serves on it often. Israel, frequently singled out for international criticism, never has... In June UN members will choose which countries will take two available council seats next year: Germany, Belgium or Israel... Germany is unlikely to withdraw. So, unless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now — and maybe for the foreseeable future. Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member." [NYPost]
TRANSITION -- “John Kelly promotes Kushner ally for key deputy role” by Jonathan Swan: “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has named Christopher Liddell, a Jared Kushner ally who ran the Office of American Innovation, as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Coordination Two White House officials told me they interpret this move as a signal that Kelly is trying to soothe tensions with Kushner and make this fraught arrangement work for the long haul. But I have not confirmed whether Kelly himself was thinking about this when he made the decision to promote Liddell.” [Axios; Politico]
THE DAILY KUSHNER -- “Kushner Companies confirms meeting with Qatar on financing" by Michael Kranish and Karen DeYoung: “Jared Kushner’s father met with Qatar’s finance minister three months after President Trump’s inauguration However, Charles Kushner said he turned down possible funding to avoid questions of a conflict of interest for his son “I was invited to a meeting,” he said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Before the meeting, Kushner Companies had decided that it was not going to accept sovereign wealth fund investments. We informed the Qatar representatives of our decision and they agreed. Even if they were there ready to wire the money, we would not have taken it.”” [WashPost]
INSIDE THE ADMIN -- "Trump originally planned to put Cohn at CIA, but changed his mind" by Eliana Johnson, Ben White and Andrew Restuccia: "Former White House economic adviser Gary Cohn reached a tentative agreement with President Donald Trump to become his CIA director — but lost out on the role after Trump abruptly changed his mind... Trump... informally offered Cohn the position, telling him he thought he’d be a good fit for the job, and Cohn had agreed to take it... Cohn... told associates he was interested in running the CIA or, potentially, serving as secretary of state." [Politico]
MUELLER WATCH -- "Trump shakes up team of lawyers as legal threats mount" by Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonnig and Robert Costa: "The president continues to complain that his lawyers are not protecting him and that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — who is supervising the probe — is up to mischief, said the person, who spoke to Trump in recent days... Some of Trump’s closest friends, including Tom Barrack and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, have told the president that he needs a legal heavyweight on his personal team, or someone with a record of defending clients in hot water with the Justice Department and winning." [WashPost]
"Who is Joseph diGenova, Trump’s newest pick to defend him in Mueller Probe?" by Max Kutner: "diGenova, who regularly criticizes the FBI and Department of Justice in appearances on television, previously served as a United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. In his role as an assistant U.S. Attorney, he led the prosecution of Jonathan Pollard, who pleaded guilty to spying for Israel." [Newsweek]
HAPPENING TODAY -- At 11:15AM EST, Former Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer and ADL Senior Vice President for International Affairs Sharon Nazarian will discuss "Confronting Neo-Nazism and Antisemitism of the Extreme Right in the United States and Elsewhere" at the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem [Livestream] Today's program [GFCA2018]
2018 WATCH -- "Alan Dershowitz Slams 'Sex in the City' Star Cynthia Nixon as 'anti-Israel Candidate' in N.Y. Race" by Allison Kaplan Sommer: "Actress and liberal activist Cynthia Nixon... announced on Monday she would run for governor of New York, challenging incumbent Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic nomination... In the run-up to Nixon’s announcement... Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz slammed her Middle East politics in a tweet, calling out what he said was her “bigotry” in supporting “Israel Haters Jewish Voice for Peace” and actress “Vanessa Redgrave in boycotting Israel." After she made her announcement he reiterated his belief that Nixon was “anti-Israel.”" [Haaretz]
-- "Cynthia Nixon gave a Shabbat sermon in 2011 — and praised Andrew Cuomo" by Ben Sales: "Nixon isn’t Jewish herself, but she’s almost an honorary member of the tribe. Her two eldest children from her first marriage are Jewish and have both been bar- and bat-mitzvahed. At least one of them attended Hebrew school at B’nai Jeshurun... She’s also an active member of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, Manhattan’s most prominent LGBTQ synagogue, and has spoken there multiple times." [JTA]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Oracle’s Larry Ellison Unveils Hydroponic Farming Start-Up [DealBook] The Weinstein Company files for bankruptcy [Reuters] London Brawl Between Pro-Putin Tycoons Tests Kremlin’s Patience [Bloomberg] This adviser could be to blame for Broadcom, iHeart’s failures [NYPost] Jon Steinberg's Cheddar, the ‘CNBC for Millennials,’ Raises $22 Million for International Expansion [WSJ] New York City Council investigating Kushner firms’ alleged false filings [NYPost] N.Y. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to Meet With Tenants About Kushner Report [Bloomberg] Sequoia Israel Partner Haim Sadger Raises New $100 Million Fund [Calcalist]
STARTUP NATION -- "Former Israeli spy chief and team of elite hackers form cybersecurity firm" by Tova Cohen: "Retired Mossad chief Tamir Pardo said he has assembled a team of more than 30 hackers from Israel’s security and intelligence services into a startup called XM Cyber that seeks to keep companies’ networks safe by imitating how real hackers work. XM Cyber raised $15 million, mostly from Israeli billionaire Shaul Shani, who sold his Brazilian company Global Village Telecom to Vivendi for $4.5 billion in 2009." [Reuters]
SPOTLIGHT: “KLA-Tencor Buys Israel's Orbotech at $3.4 Billion Valuation” by Yaacov Benmeleh: “KLA-Tencor Corp. agreed to acquire Orbotech Ltd., an Israeli firm that develops ways to enhance manufacturing of electronic products, to diversify its sources of growth. KLA will buy Orbotech for about $69.02 per share through a combination of cash and stock That gives Orbotech an equity value of approximately $3.4 billion Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an evangelist for Israeli technology on his foreign travels, praised the deal. “More good news for the hi-tech sector and the Israeli economy!” he said on his Twitter feed The deal “is further proof of Orbotech’s positioning in the markets in which it operates and the strength of its business model,” Orbotech CEO Asher Levy said.” [Bloomberg]
HEARD THE OTHER DAY -- Yuval Noah Harari on politicians looking back instead of forward: “I think that parties and governments in most of the world today, they are doing a far better job than ever before in running the day to day business of the country, but what they have almost lost completely the ability to have a long term plan for the future because they have no realistic vision of basic things like the job market in 30 years. What you see is more and more countries look to the past instead of to the future, and instead of formulating meaningful visions for where humankind will be in 2050 they repackage nostalgic fantasies about the past. And there is a kind of competition who can look back furthest. So you have Donald Trump wanting to go back to the 1950s or something like that, and you have Putin basically wanting to go back to the Tsarist Empire a century after the Bolshevik revolution, and you have ISIS that wants to go back to the 7th century Arabia, and in my country, Israel, they beat everybody -- they want to go back 2,500 years to the age of the Bible. So we win, we have the longest term vision backward.” [Video]
SPOTTED IN JERUSALEM -- Elon Musk, on a visit to Israel, posts a video from the Gatsby bar in Jerusalem: “Learning how to pour flaming absinthe over a tower of glasses in a Jerusalem speakeasy. Everything’s better with fire.” [Instagram] Musk gets serious at Masada, parties in Jerusalem bar [ToI]
-- "Elon Musk in talks with Israeli AI vision co Cortica" by Oshrit Gan-El: "According to industry sources, the visit by Elon Musk in Israel is connected to collaboration between electric vehicle and autonomous vehicle company Tesla, which Musk heads, and Israeli computerized vision company Cortica." [Globes]
TALK OF THE TOWN: "Spring cleaning for Western Wall's notes to God" by Jeffrey Heller: "Even God’s mailbox needs a spring cleaning. Equipped with long sticks, a team of cleaners on Tuesday gouged out written prayers that visitors to Judaism’s Western Wall in Jerusalem traditionally cram into its crevices. Twice a year, the Rabbi of the Western Wall oversees the collection of thousands of notes to ensure there’s always room for more. The papers are then buried on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives in accordance with ritual." [Reuters]
"Leonard Bernstein, social activist, is focus of new exhibit" by Kristen de Groot: "Bernstein’s lifelong effort to find that solution through music is on moving, and sometimes surprising, display at Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History in its new exhibit, “Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music.” Bernstein thrilled millions around the world with his compositions, his theatrical works like “West Side Story” and his over-the-top conducting style before his death in 1990 at age 72. But the focus here is on a lesser-known side of Bernstein: the second-generation American Jew who inspired social progress on and off the stage." [AP]
"Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Platt stage powerful duet for March for Our Lives" by Sandra Gonzalez: "Two of Broadway's most popular voices have joined forces for a song to benefit March For Our Lives. Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt are featured on the new song "Found/Tonight." The mash-up combines the sentiments and messages in the songs "The Story of Tonight" from "Hamilton" and "You Will Be Found" from "Dear Evan Hansen." [CNN]
SPORTS BLINK: “Israeli soccer player posts photo with Iranian counterpart” by Amy Spiro: “Maor Buzaglo, a player with Maccabi Haifa who also plays for Israel’s national team, was in London over the weekend receiving treatment for a knee injury. While there, he ran into Ashkan Dejagah, an Iranian who plays for Nottingham Forest in the UK and is also captain of the Iranian national team. Buzaglo posted a photo of the pair on Instagram and Twitter, alongside Israeli and Iranian flags and the peace sign. Buzaglo, 30, tagged Dejagah in his photo... [He commented] on Buzaglo’s post, writing: “wish you a quick recovery too my friend.”” [JPost; Pic]
DESSERT -- "The Coolest New Jewish Deli? It’s in Tokyo" by Simone Somekh: "For the launch of Wise Sons Tokyo in late February, the restaurant’s founders and chef decided to keep the menu almost identical to the original. One of the deli’s staple dishes is the matzo ball soup, but—alas—they couldn’t find any matzo in Tokyo. Importing it from abroad was too costly, so they naturally decided to bake their own. Jotaro Tanaka, appointed to be the chef and manager of the Japanese branch, had never tried matzo before—let alone tried baking it. With the help of Wise Son’s own chef Joey Boujo, who spent six weeks training the team to make every dish on the menu, he learned." [Tablet]
BIRTHDAYS: Activist philanthropist, pioneer in corporate social responsibility, Chair of Maoz, formerly CEO of family-owned Timberland, Jeffrey Swartz turns 58... Actor, director, Carl Reiner turns 96... 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 87... Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences as a geologist and oceanographer, but known popularly as poet and performer, Alexander Gorodnitsky turns 85... Australian award-winning writer of Portuguese Sephardi descent, David George Joseph Malouf turns 84... Senior advisor to the family office of Charles Bronfman, Dr. Jeffrey R. Solomon turns 73... Talmudic scholar Rav Tzvi Berkowitz turns 67... Award-winning author of 25 children's books, Louis Sachar turns 64... Israel's Chief of Police, Roni Alsheikh turns 55...
Host of Time Team America, a PBS program, she produced and directed a feature-length documentary entitled Our Summer in Tehran, Justine Shapiro turns 55... Chilean philanthropist and businessman with substantial mining interests, Leonardo Farkas turns 51... Journalist, author and lecturer best known for writing about his lifestyle immersion experiments, he is an editor at large for Esquire, Arnold Stephen "A. J." Jacobs turns 50... Actor, podcast host, director and comedian, has acted in more than forty films, Michael Rapaport turns 48... Director at West Wing Writers, Matt Finkelstein turns 33... Development associate at Urban Investment Partners, Jason Lifton turns 29... Comedian, writer, and actress who gained popularity through her comedy videos on YouTube, she is a correspondent on the Netflix series Bill Nye Saves the World, Joanna Hausmann turns 29... Hyman Grossman... Ehud Lazar...
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