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DRIVING THE DAY -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at 12PM EST followed by a working lunch. According to a senior administration official, the meeting is a routine check-in timed for the Prime Minister's visit to the AIPAC conference, and no major announcements are expected. On Saturday, Netanyahu said Iran will be a top issue, and that the peace process will be discussed as a secondary issue. Netanyahu will also thank Trump for the Jerusalem embassy move, and will reportedly invite Trump to a ribbon-cutting on May 14 for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
Vice President Mike Pence will join Trump and Netanyahu at their working lunch. Pence will later meet with Israel's Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog and Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat. Yesterday, Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and Amb. David Friedman met with Netanyahu at the Blair House. "They discussed the Administration's ongoing peace efforts and related matters in advance of the President's meeting with the Prime Minister,” a White House official told Axios.
Josh Raffel, White House Deputy Communications Director, emails us “The President and the Prime Minister share a great relationship and make an effort to meet whenever the opportunity arises. The Prime Minister will be in Washington for AIPAC and the two leaders look forward to discussing a variety of issues, including the Iran nuclear deal, the Syrian Civil War, efforts to thwart Iran’s attempt to establish a permanent presence in Syria from which to threaten Israel, and the Administration’s ongoing peace efforts.”
ON BIBI'S MIND -- “Israel demands stricter sanctions on Iranian missiles” by Barak Ravid: “Israeli officials told me that the government in Jerusalem was surprised to find out that the potential sanctions on the Iranian missile program being discussed concern only missiles with a range beyond 1200 miles (2000 kilometers) that can hit Europe and the U.S., and not with short and medium range Iranian missiles that can hit Israel directly from Iran or from Lebanon and Syria via Hezbollah Netanyahu will try and convince Trump in their meeting tomorrow not to compromise with the Europeans on the issue of the Iranian missile program and to take the toughest line possible.” [Axios] Trump-Netanyahu meeting is chance to project common front vs. Iran [Reuters]
“Netanyahu, Under Fire at Home, Seeks a Warm Embrace in U.S.” by David Halbfinger: “For Mr. Netanyahu who is in greater political peril than the president, the trip to the United States will provide a welcome respite, said Daniel C. Kurtzer “He’ll be smiling in the Oval Office,” Mr. Kurtzer said of Mr. Netanyahu. “They may announce this rumored invitation to Trump to come cut the ribbon on the embassy in May. He’ll be cheered at AIPAC — but who’s it fooling?” . Mr. Netanyahu is likely to resume his critique of the Iran nuclear deal in his meeting with Mr. Trump, [Michèle] Flournoy said. “The worry is that Bibi pumps up Trump to walk away from the deal,” she said “I would hope that he would exercise some restraint.”” [NYTimes; Bloomberg]
Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro emails us... "A friendly, positive meeting will serve the political interests of both leaders. But there could still be gaps between them. Will they agree on the timing of the presentation of a U.S. peace plan, before or after the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem is dedicated in May? Even tougher, will they agree on its substance, if Trump wants to include elements that Israel will not like -- say, evacuation of some settlements and sharing of Jerusalem -- which Netanyahu's coalition could never accept? Can Trump offer more than rhetorical support to Israel's campaign to deter and defend itself against the Iranian threat in Syria -- upgraded intelligence cooperation, accelerated missile defense funding, diplomatic support with the Russians and to reinforce Israeli messages of deterrence, and planning for U.S. role to help defend Israel in a two-front war on its northern border? Do they have any plan for what happens in May if there is no consensus between the United States and Europe on how to supplement or improve the JCPOA, and Trump's threat to withdraw from the deal must be enacted or postponed?
BUZZ ON BALFOUR -- "In Deal With Police, Former Netanyahu Aide to Hand Over Recordings of Netanyahu and Wife" by Revital Hovel, Josh Breiner and Noa Landau: "Nir Hefetz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "spin doctor" and confidant, will hand over recordings of Netanyahu and his wife Sara as part of a deal with police to turn state's evidence in the bribery case involving the Bezeq telecom giant and the Walla news site. Netanyahu, currently in the U.S. for AIPAC and a meeting with Trump, received the news at the Blair House, where he is a guest of the White House... Hefetz is the third Netanyahu confidant to turn against the prime minister in the ongoing corruption cases." [Haaretz] Hollywood Producer Arnon Milchan Responds To Claims That He Bribed Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu [Forbes]
PIC OF THE DAY -- Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog, and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky posed for a picture at Newark Airport's baggage claim on Sunday [Pic]
HAPPENING TODAY -- Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley will address AIPAC's Policy Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center during the evening general session [CSPAN]
Other high-profile speakers on AIPAC's 2nd day include Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House leaders Kevin McCarthy, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer; Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), Israeli Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog, and outgoing Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky.
HALEY = AIPAC APPLAUSE -- After the crowd applauded a mere mention of Nikki Haley during a discussion on Sunday morning about Israeli innovation, AIPAC's Managing Director of National Affairs Elliot Brandt remarked: "You'd want to hold your applause for about a day and a half, but we will get there." [Video]
RECAP OF AIPAC DAY 1 -- AIPAC chief calls for Palestinian statehood: "While Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu no longer endorses full statehood for the Palestinians, and the Trump administration has grudgingly said it would support a two-state solution if the two sides agreed to it, the head of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC on Sunday launched an impassioned plea for Palestinian statehood and for holding on to belief in the possibility of peace. In remarks liable to anger hawkish Israeli politicians and their American supporters, including portions of the AIPAC membership, the lobby’s Executive Director Howard Kohr issued an explicit call for “two states for two peoples” and said it was “tragic” that this scenario currently seems so distant." [ToI; Video]
CRITIQUE FROM THE RIGHT: "Settler leader to AIPAC: Your support for two-states has ‘no basis in fact’" by Jacob Magid: "In a combative letter to the leadership of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee... [Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan] blasted Monday the positions of the US’ most powerful Israel lobby as having “no basis in fact.” “The official government of Israel guidelines contain not one word or even hint of support for the ‘two-state solution,'” he said." [ToI]
CRITIQUE FROM THE LEFT: "AIPAC's Cheering Crowds Can’t Disguise Its Cop-out on Settlements and Its Capitulation to Trump's Bigoted Nativism" by Eric H. Yoffie: "American policy had traditionally favored a two-state solution while in Israel, the Prime Minister says he favors the same but rarely mentions it. Israel’s current government includes no reference to two states in its coalition agreement. AIPAC deals with this by saying it supports two states, but downplays the issue, which is barely visible on its website." [Haaretz]
ON JERUSALEM -- Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer compared Trump to King Cyrus for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital last December. "The fact that the leader of the free world, the most powerful country in the world, becomes the first leader to recognize Jerusalem as our capital is a decision that will never, ever be forgotten by the Jewish people," he said. Later in the day, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales announced that his country will move its embassy to Jerusalem two days after the opening of the temporary U.S. embassy.
Dan Williams : "Spotted in West Jerusalem: Guatemalan Ambassador @SaraSolisC, on a visit to find a new embassy site." [Pic]
ISRAELI VERSION OF A JEFFERSON-JACKSON SPEECH: Labor leader Avi Gabbay dedicated a significant part of his remarks to the peace process, although he did not challenge the Netanyahu government or offer his own vision for peace.
BIPARTISANSHIP -- In his debut speech as AIPAC President, Mort Fridman noted the group’s bipartisan efforts and the need to double down in these challenging times: “I don't want to minimize the challenges our country faces or what Americans are feeling. People are angry and hurting and frustrated and fed up. There's an impulse to walk away from politics, to retreat to partisan corners or to demonize the other side We need to double-down on our bipartisan methodology – and without compromising one iota of our commitment to other issues that matter to us deeply. We must create the space to come together for the U.S.-Israel relationship."
Fridman also issued a direct appeal to the progressive movement: "The progressive narrative for Israel is just as compelling and critical as the conservative one. There are very real forces trying to pull you out of this hall and out of this movement and we cannot let that happen — we will not let that happen!” [Video]
HOW IT PLAYED -- “AIPAC launches conference with appeal to progressives” by Ron Kampeas: “One of the keynote speakers Sunday morning was former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, who called Israel a “progressive paradise” because of its support for women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and its subsidies for health care and parental care. “Israel can be a role model for other nations including America showing how citizens are cared for,” said Granholm, who got a standing ovation.” [JTA]
ANTI-BOYCOTT ACT -- “Sen. Ben Cardin proposes changes to controversial bill on Israel boycotts” by John Fritze: “Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said Saturday that the updated language affirmed business rights under the First Amendment, offered a statement supporting the rights of U.S. citizens to engage in personal boycotts and limited punishment to monetary penalties.” [BlatimoreSun]
REPORT -- “Dermer warned Obama team Israel would turn to Kushner over UN settlements resolution” by Michael Wilner: “Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer informed a senior White House official at former president Barack Obama’s final White House Hanukkah party that he would be forced to reach out to President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team for help if the UN Security Council went ahead with a landmark resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity.” [JPost]
DRIVING THE CONVO -- "Kushner-led Mideast-Peace Plan Faces Growing Difficulty Even Before Arrival” by Felicia Schwartz: "Several former officials who worked on the Middle East process said a top-secret clearance is needed for high-level meetings at the White House as well as to review intelligence related to negotiations. But Trump administration officials said [Jared] Kushner still will work on the issue, and other former officials said leaders in the region value Mr. Kushner’s closeness to his father-in-law. “He doesn’t need a security clearance to do what they’re going to do, which is basically identify in rather detailed form U.S. positions on all of the major issues as a possible basis for negotiations,” said Aaron David Miller..." [WSJ]
PALACE INTRIGUE -- “‘Pure madness’: Dark days inside the White House as Trump shocks and rages” by Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey: “Trump has been asking people close to him whether they think Kushner or his company has done anything wrong.” [WashPost]
HEARD THE OTHER DAY -- NYT’s Maggie Haberman on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper: “I think [Trump] is really conflicted when it comes to his daughter I do think he is proud of her. I think that he talks about how he thinks that she has done well on the tax issue. He was very pleased with her work there. He likes having her around. He believes that she is getting beaten up because of him. Jared Kushner, however, he has started to see as a liability. And, on the one hand, he has -- some people have said to me -- some sympathy for him.” [Video]
HEARD THE OTHER NIGHT -- President Trump jokes about Kushner’s security clearance at the annual Gridiron Club dinner on Saturday: “I wanted to apologize for arriving a little bit late. You know, we were late tonight because Jared could not get through security Ivanka, you’ve got to do something Jared—but I will tell you, he’s a good guy. He has suffered. He is a great guy, he really is.” Watch: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump arrive at the Renaissance Hotel on Saturday [CSPAN]
QUITE THE PURIM MEAL -- Haim Saban and Univision’s Isaac Lee were spotted walking into Ivanka and Jared’s residence on Thursday for a Purim meal [Pic]
RUMOR MILL -- Israel-born Oracle CEO said to be contender to replace McMaster: “Safra Catz, the Israeli-born co-CEO of tech giant Oracle, is considered a leading candidate to replace US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, CNN reported Friday Her name has previously come up in relation to efforts to remove McMaster from his position.” [ToI; CNN]
INSIDE THE ADMIN -- “Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin ‘Extremely Paranoid’ Ahead of Damning New Investigation, Sources Say” by Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng and Sam Stein: “The top watchdog for the Department of Veterans Affairs is preparing a report that is expected to criticize [David] Shulkin over his use of his security detail to run personal errands... Three sources familiar with the situation say the forthcoming Inspector General report will likely fuel criticism of Shulkin’s use of official department resources and could further erode his standing in the administration Behind the scenes... dissatisfaction with Shulkin is high and there is a sense that his tenure could be coming to a close, with the president and his adviser using the opportunity of damaging reports to find a more ideologically like-minded replacement.” [DailyBeast] Chaos at Veterans Affairs has Shulkin on the edge [Axios]
TOP TALKER -- “Women’s March leaders refuse to condemn Farrakhan after anti-Semitic speech” by Daniel Roth: “In the audience at last weekend’s conference was Tamika Mallory, one of the leaders of the Women’s March, who got a special shout-out from [Louis] Farrakhan and who regularly posts laudatory pictures of him on her Instagram account as does Carmen Perez, another leader of the March,” the ADL said In an apparent response to the controversy, Mallory posted to Twitter on Friday evening: “Family... thank you for loving me and for knowing the truth about who I am. My work speaks for itself... Whatever else they say about me is a LIE. Thank you for continuing to hold me up. I stand on my reputation!” [JPost]
-- "Maybe It's Time To Leave Anti-Semitic Women Behind" by Lily Herman: "There’s an underlying pain in knowing that when it comes to social justice, you’re essentially told you’re on the bottom of the totem pole, and leaders of many so-called “progressive” movements want it that way; to them, you’re completely negotiable, and no amount of conversation changes that." [Refinery29]
“Democratic Congressman Confirms Relationship With Farrakhan, Unbothered By ‘The Jewish Question’” by Peter Hasson: “Democratic Illinois Rep. Danny Davis confirmed in an interview Sunday that he has a personal relationship with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan The congressman wasn’t sure why the ADL wrote that he had been misquoted in his praise for the anti-Semite “I think that was what they wanted to write. Nah, I don’t have no problems with Farrakhan, I don’t spend a whole lot of my time dealing with those kind of things,” Davis said “I’m a pretty global individual. So I know Farrakhan, I know the Middle East question, I know the Jews and Farrakhan — I know all that, but that’s not what I spend all my time focused on,” Davis continued, breaking into a laugh.” [DailyCaller]
2018 WATCH -- “Could This Man Become the GOP's First Muslim-American Member of Congress?” by Amir Tibon: “Omar Qudrat, a former Department of Defense prosecutor whose parents immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan in the 1970s, is running for Congress in California's 52nd District. He is hoping to oust Democratic incumbent Scott Peters – and set a historical precedent by becoming the first-ever Muslim American to be elected to Congress as a Republican He admits... that his candidacy is “confusing a lot of people. I could be targeted by both white supremacists and Islamist terror networks at the same time, because I disrupt the extremists' narratives,” he observes.” [Haaretz]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: The Kushner loan story is missing a smoking gun [Axios] Before Trump Announced Tariffs, Icahn Sold Off Millions In Steel-Related Stocks [NPR] Blackstone's Steve Schwarzman Plows $197 Million Back Into His Firm [Bloomberg] Leonardo DiCaprio invests in green energy Israel hotel [JPost] Israel's Medivie signs $110 million medical cannabis export deal [Reuters]
STARTUP NATION -- “Marshall Islands creates its own virtual money to pay bills” by Hilary Hosia and Nick Perry: “The Marshall Islands is partnering with Israeli company Neema to launch the SOV. It plans to sell some of the currency to international investors and spend the proceeds The law states that the Marshall Islands will issue 24 million SOVs in what it calls an Initial Currency Offering. Half of those will go to the government and half to Neema. Neema Chief Executive Barak Ben-Ezer said the SOV marked a new era for cryptocurrency." [AP]
"Israeli Techie Lawmaker Reaches Supporters by Recording Waze Voice Pack" by Tofi Stoler, Iris Lifshitz Kliger and Shahaf Frenkel: "Last year, Waze introduced a feature allowing users to record their own custom navigation directions or install directions recorded by another user. This feature became available in Israel with the app’s latest update in January. On Monday, Israel’s Minister of Education Naftali] Bennet published a tweet inviting his followers to install the directions he recorded. Within two hours, he reported in another tweet that over 2,000 users have already downloaded his narration." [Calcalist]
SPOTLIGHT -- “Mueller’s Focus on Adviser to U.A.E. Indicates Broader Inquiry” by Mark Mazzetti, David Kirkpatrick and Maggie Haberman: “In one example of [George] Nader’s influential connections... last fall he received a detailed report from a top Trump fund-raiser, Elliott Broidy, about a private meeting with the president in the Oval Office. Mr. Broidy owns a private security company with hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with the United Arab Emirates, and he extolled to Mr. Trump a paramilitary force that his company was developing for the country. He also lobbied the president to meet privately “in an informal setting” with the Emirates’ military commander and de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan; to back the U.A.E.’s hawkish policies in the region; and to fire Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson"
“Mr. Nader has long been a mysterious figure [In the 1990s] Mr. Nader convinced the Clinton administration that he had valuable contacts in the Syrian government and took on a secretive role trying to broker a peace deal between Israel and Syria. Working with Ronald S. Lauder Mr. Nader shuttled between Damascus and Jerusalem “In the 1990s, George was a very effective under-the-radar operator in the peace process,” said Martin S. Indyk “Then, he disappeared.”” [NYTimes]
"Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes reveals how one conversation he had with Mark Zuckerberg in the rain at Harvard set the course for his life" by Richard Feloni: "[Chris] Hughes was working his $10/hour job at the Hicks House library, checking student IDs. He and Zuckerberg were chatting over AOL Instant Messenger about Facebook, which was about to expand beyond Harvard to new schools. They decided to discuss Hughes' ownership stake in person. Hughes grabbed his umbrella and met Zuckerberg by their dorm entrance and, sharing the umbrella, went for a walk... "Just give me what you think is fair," Hughes remembered telling Zuckerberg. "I know it's hard to balance all of us." Zuckerberg replied with just an "OK" and walked off into the rain, without even a hood on. A few weeks later, Hughes discovered Zuckerberg gave him 2%..." [BusinessInsider]
Mark Zuckerberg celebrates Purim with hamantashen: "Pictured with his wife Priscilla Chan, the pair were in their kitchen, with a caption underneath the picture reading: “Baking hamantashen. Chag sameah!” When asked about the holiday, [Zuckerberg] wrote how Haman “was the villain of Purim and he famously had a three-cornered hat. These symbolize the victory over him.”" [JewishNews]
"The First People Have Just Been Accused Of Violating Poland's New Holocaust Law" by J. Lester Feder and Marcin Krasnowolski: "A group influential in passing a new law in Poland that makes it a crime to attribute any blame to the country for the Holocaust said Friday that it had filed the first lawsuit seeking to enforce the legislation. The case was filed by the Polish League Against Defamation (RDI) against the Argentine newspaper Pagina12 over a story published in December — more than two months before the law came into effect — about a incident in the town of Jedwabne in 1941 in which a group of Poles burned more than 300 Jews in a barn with the tacit approval of occupying Nazi soldiers..." [BuzzFeed]
"Cellphones, hair salons and grit: Digital art shows Africans in Israel as more than just migrants" by Lynsey Chutel: "While studying abroad at Tel Aviv University, Canadian artist Alicia Mersy was inspired by the drive and grit of African immigrants to make a life in Israel. Mersy’s work offers a glimpse into the spaces where immigrants create a community and let their guard down. Using photography as an excuse to get close to people and digital tools to go beyond documentary, Mersy’s work delves into the uncomfortable questions raised by Israel’s policies. The subjects of her work are by no means passive, and their visual representation challenges the negative stereotypes of African immigrants in Israel. “My intentions were clear: I wanted to talk about Israel’s so-called open society and expose their institutionalized racism,” she says." [Quartz]
MEDIA WATCH: "How PragerU Is Winning The Right-Wing Culture War Without Donald Trump" by Joseph Bernstein: "For conservative thinkers, even those whose writing appears in the pages of the US’s biggest newspapers, PragerU has become an irresistible megaphone. “It moves the message in a way that would have been inconceivable even in the pages of the Wall Street Journal,” said Bret Stephens, who now writes for the New York Times. Stephens’ video about Iran... has been viewed more than 4 million times. And that new audience has made Stephens into a kind of campus celebrity. Stephens said that students regularly tell him after university speaking engagements that they discovered his work through PragerU... One source close to the organization told BuzzFeed News that management worries that being seen to endorse Trump could cause the company to lose its status as a tax-exempt nonprofit..." [BuzzFeed]
OSCARS -- "All that was Jew-ish about the 2018 Academy Awards" by Tracy Fryberg: "While “Call Me By Your Name,” a film rich with Jewish themes, and Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” were this year’s best bets for prominent Jewish films to star at the Oscars, both fell short... And there was one official Jewish winner: Director Bryan Fogel’s film, “Icarus,” won for best documentary. The film — now on Netflix — is the story of Russia’s state-sponsored Olympic doping scandal... Israeli “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot needed no nomination to come out a winner of the evening. After shimmering down the red carpet in a silver and sequined gown, Gadot presented the award for best makeup and hairstyling alongside actor Armie Hammer. In one of Kimmel’s bits from the evening, he assembled a group of celebrities, including Gadot, to surprise real movie-goers watching a film in a theater. “We brought you some goodies,” Gadot said as the audience applauded. “This is so much better than the Oscars!”" [ToI]
PARTY SCENE -- "Inside Hollywood’s hottest Oscar-eve bash" by Emily Smith: "Rocketmen Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos were the center of gravity at the starry party hosted by uber-agents Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell. Bezos mingled with Comcast’s Brian Roberts and was coy when asked by other guests about the much speculated future US location of the Amazon HQ2, saying the company was still considering “multiple locations.” [NYPost]
BIRTHDAYS: Israeli-American psychologist, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work with Amos Tversky on the psychology of decision-making, Daniel Kahneman turns 84... Managing Partner of Los Angeles law firm, Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP, Mark Edelstein turns 73... President of Los Angeles PR firm Robin Gerber & Associates, Robin Gerber Carnesale turns 72... Founder and CEO of the DC-based News Literacy Project, he was a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter with the Los Angeles Times for 21 years, Alan C. Miller turns 64... Artist, writer, and professor of computer science at Yale University, former national fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, David Hillel Gelernter turns 63... President and founder of West End Strategy Team, Matt Dorf turns 48... Mike Reinis turns 47... Director of communications for the Smart Electric Power Alliance, he was previously Deputy Director of public affairs at the Department of Commerce, Michael N. Kruger turns 42... Jerusalem City Councilman and co-founder of Wake-Up Jerusalem, a social-political movement in Israel for young adults, Hanan Rubin... Communications Director for Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY 10th), Daniel Schwarz... Donald Newman...