Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: March 7, 2018

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Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to visitors in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda as he walks to a meeting with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, in Washington, March 6, 2018.
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to visitors in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda as he walks to a meeting with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, in Washington, March 6, 2018. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP
JI Staff

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DRIVING THE DAY -- "Kushner to Meet With Mexican President During Trip" by Rebecca Ballhaus: "Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner is set to visit Mexico City on Wednesday where he is expected to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto... [and] Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs, Luis Videgaray. Their talks will focus on security, immigration, trade and economics... Mr. Kushner’s trip suggests the adviser will continue to have a foreign-policy portfolio despite the downgrading of his security clearance last week." [WSJ]

TRUMP TUMULT -- "Gary Cohn Said He Will Resign as Trump’s Top Economic Adviser" by Kate Kelly and Maggie Haberman: "White House officials insisted that there was no single factor behind the departure of [Gary] Cohn... But his decision to leave came as he seemed poised to lose an internal struggle over Mr. Trump’s plan to impose large tariffs on steel and aluminum imports... The departure of Mr. Cohn further shrinks the number of allies Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, have in the White House... In several conversations that Mr. Trump had with people on Tuesday, he denounced Mr. Cohn as a “globalist.”" [NYTimes]  Trump Confronted Cohn on Trade Hours Before Resignation, Sources Say [Bloomberg]

-- "Earlier in the day, Trump had denied that his West Wing was in “chaos,” but added cryptically, “I still have some people that I want to change.” That poured fuel on speculation that he could part ways with Cabinet officials with whom he has had major disagreements, such as Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin or Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or senior aides like national security adviser H.R. McMaster and chief of staff John Kelly." [YahooNews]

Josh Dawsey tweets: "Cohn wrote a resignation letter after the president's Charlottesville comments but decided not to give it to Trump. Over tariffs, he gives the letter." [Twitter]

HOW IT PLAYED -- "Lloyd Blankfein Is ‘Disappointed’ About Gary Cohn’s Exit" by Dakin Campbell: "Lloyd Blankfein said he’s disappointed to see his former deputy Gary Cohn leave the White House. Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s chief executive officer said on Twitter that Cohn “deserves credit for serving his country in a first class way.” ... Goldman Sachs fell 1.7 percent in late trading." [Bloomberg]

Josh Bolten, the President and CEO of the Business Roundtable, emails... “Director Cohn’s departure from the White House is a real loss for President Trump and the American people. Gary is a strong and thoughtful leader whose efforts on tax reform and regulation will continue to benefit American families and workers for years to come. On behalf of Business Roundtable CEO members, we can only hope to have as great of a working partnership with the next director of President Trump’s National Economic Council.” 

IS MCMASTER NEXT? "National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster was solidly aligned with [Gary] Cohn in fighting the tariff, and some inside the White House believe McMaster endangered his standing with Trump by being too strident. Trump met Tuesday in the Oval Office with former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, a potential successor to McMaster, though it wasn’t clear what the two discussed." [Bloomberg

BUZZ ON BALFOUR -- "Israel Contemplates a Future Without Netanyahu" by Ruth Margalit: "Despite the cheerful air that Netanyahu tried to project during his meeting with Trump, those who know him say that he is increasingly rattled, on edge, and isolated... Many in Israel believe that he may call for early elections, if only to preempt having to run with an indictment hanging over his head... Netanyahu has remade Likud in his image—so much so that it is now unclear whether the Party can survive without him. “The day after Bibi, in Likud, an all-out war will break out,” Tal Shalev, a political reporter... told me..."

"If Netanyahu’s rule is characterized by a seizing of the base and then an appeal to the center, almost as an afterthought, some of his potential replacements... may attempt to rule from the center first and only then cater to the right... Does it feel like the end of an era, I asked [Yair] Lapid...  “It does,” he said, then corrected himself. “It feels like the beginning of the end.”" [NewYorker]

"Netanyahu Bids AIPAC Farewell With His 'Terminator' Speech" by Anshel Pfeffer: "It was a Bibi classic... It was such a classic of the Netanyahu genre that he could have made nearly the identical speech at any point in the last decade... None of the adoring listeners were about to note the historical incongruity. How many of them were wondering if they were indeed listening to him for the last time? Perhaps this is what Netanyahu was subliminally messaging them, in his Bibi-bot way... You know me. This is what I’m best at. I’m the Terminator and I’ll. Be. Back." [Haaretz]  

David Horovitz: With inspiring performance at AIPAC, Netanyahu seeks to show he’s indispensable [ToI]

SPEECH PROP -- At the beginning of Netanyahu's speech, while he was walking around the stage presenting the 'good' of Israel, he held in his left hand a piece of paper reading "1-800 how's my speech?" [Pic]  Netanyahu's media team distributed the image to the press and later uploaded it on his official Instagram account. 

HEARD YESTERDAY -- Aaron David Miller on PBS Newshour: "You know, Netanyahu has been around for a long time. He’s currently working, I think, on his 13th of his nine lives." [PBS

JI INTERVIEW -- Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, spoke with Jewish Insider's Jacob Kornbluh about AIPAC's bipartisan message and Netanyahu's speech yesterday: "I was actually very encouraged and was heartened by the genuine bipartisanship that the APAC leaders put on the main plenary stage. Howard Kohr's speech on Sunday night, I thought, was both courageous and truthful. I think that sometimes 'bipartisan' is a slogan, but I saw and heard substantive voices affirming the diversity of Jewish views," Jacobs said at the conclusion of the annual gathering. "I thought that was very positive and I really commend the APAC leadership on a stage that could have been very divisive. They were able to put forward a very effective way to galvanize a very divided community."

On Netanyahu's speech: "To be honest, there was a very large piece of the speech that was missing - the genuine issues that really have divided the United States Jewry from Israel. To talk about shared values is very important, but it's not a talking point, it's a practice. A leader has the responsibility to also talk about what's challenging, and Jews in Diaspora are still waiting to feel more intensely that they matter too, not just to the Prime Minister but to the State of Israel. I believe that could have been an important additional element to the speech." [JewishInsider]

Shmuel Rosner writes... "AIPAC 2018: No News is Good News? From several conversations I had, I get the impression that the appeal to progressives in this conference was quite successful. It felt like a real attempt at inclusion, and at least some of the progressive participants were convinced that AIPAC is genuine in trying to send a message of a broad tent." [JewishJournal]

ON THE HILL -- Netanyahu met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and the House leadership yesterday [Pic; Video]

As the House Speaker welcomed Netanyahu in his office - which was closed to press but captured on video by Tal Schneider - Ryan showed Netanyahu the view of the Trump hotel from his office window. "See that tall building over there? That's the Trump Hotel," Ryan said. Netanyahu replied, "Has that become now a landmark?" At the meeting, Netanyahu presented House Majority Whip Steve Scalise with an IDF Paratroopers Brigade beret.

Netanyahu also met with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [Pic; Video] and stopped to chat with Hill reporters while walking over to the Speaker's office. "Prime Minister Netanyahu described Iran's aggression in the region including its attempts to establish a military presence in Syria and noted that Israel is determined to thwart this,' the Prime Minister's Office said in a readout. "He presented the dangers in the Iranian nuclear agreement and said it was necessary to either fully fix the errors in the agreement or abrogate it." 

SPOTTED: Netanyahu with his wife Sara and "a ton of bodyguards" were spotted dining at Café Milano last night. h/t Playbook

HAPPENING TODAY -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former President George W. Bush will attend a celebration in honor of Natan Sharansky as he concludes his 9-year tenure as Chairman of the Jewish Agency at Cipriani on Broadway in New York City. The Jewish Agency will formally launch The Shlichut Institute, an all-encompassing center in New York to train its Israeli emissaries, at the event. Sharansky will serve as its Founding Chair. 

SPOTTED: Natan Sharansky on the 12PM Acela from DC's Union Station to New York's Penn Station yesterday. 

ANTI-BOYCOTT ACT -- "Israel anti-boycott bill inches closer to passing Senate after revisions" by Bryant Harris: "Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., proposed an amendment to his Israel Anti-Boycott Act on Monday that he hopes will assuage concerns that the legislation violates free speech rights... Cardin told Al-Monitor that he’d had “several conversations” with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and taken its “input” after the group opposed his initial bill. But while the ACLU approved of some of the changes, they still maintain that the latest iteration of the bill is unconstitutional." [Al-Monitor]

TALK OF THE MIDDLE EAST -- "Mahmoud Abbas' Health Deteriorates, and Israel Prepares for Bloody Succession Fight" by Amos Harel: "In recent months there has been a deterioration in the health of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas... Information about his health has been submitted to Israeli political and security officials... The PA president has cut down his work hours over the past year. People around him say he seems to be getting more short-tempered and argumentative with his aides and other senior PA officials... There are nearly 10 Palestinian politicians and security officials who see themselves worthy of the job, and there could be temporary alliances formed between some of them in an effort to win the leadership of PA." [Haaretz]

"El Al Taps Aviation Regulator in Campaign to Access Saudi Air" by Yaacov Benmeleh: "Saudi Arabia would violate United Nations-sanctioned regulations should it allow Indian planes en route to Israel to fly over its airspace without granting the same access to Israeli carriers, Chief Executive Officer Gonen Usishkin wrote in a letter addressed to Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, president of the International Civil Aviation Organization... The one-sided approval would be discriminatory on the part of Saudi authorities, who would not reciprocate the access to El Al “solely” because it’s “an Israeli airline,” Usishkin said." [Bloomberg]

"U.S. Lawmakers Ask Justice Dept. to Declare Al Jazeera a Foreign Agent Amid 'Israel Lobby' Film Tensions" by Amir Tibon: "[Senator Ted Cruz] and several members of Congress sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions Tuesday, asking him to look into the possibility of declaring Al Jazeera a foreign agent of Qatar's government... Haaretz has learned that the main reason behind the letter... is a controversial Al Jazeera film about the “Israel Lobby in the United States,” which the network prepared in 2017... In their letter, the legislators hint at this issue by saying that the Justice Department should investigate “reports that Al Jazeera infiltrated American non-profit organizations.”" [Haaretz

-- Amir Tibon tweets"Interesting sub-plot to this saga: the lone Senator who signed the anti-Al-Jazeera letter is Ted Cruz; Qatar's lobbyist/consultant who brokered the deal with Al Jazeera not to air the "Israel lobby" film, is Nick Muzin, a former Cruz staffer." 

Students heckle pro-Israeli Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz in Doha: "Qatari activists on Sunday heckled notorious pro-Israeli US academic Alan Dershowitz during a lecture at Northwestern University in Doha, shouting pro-Palestinian slogans and waving Palestinian flags. The students told Dershowitz "Zionists were not welcome in Qatar," amid applause by some of those in attendance." [Alaraby]  Qatar activists only interested in Israel condemnation, says Dershowitz [JPost]

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2020 WATCH: "Oprah Charms Wall Street at Power Lunch With Henry Kravis, Leon Black" by Amanda L Gordon: "Winfrey joined private equity billionaires Leon Black and Henry Kravis, as well as hedge fund founder Dan Och, at a fundraising luncheon for the Museum of Modern Art to accept the David Rockefeller Award “for enlightened generosity and advocacy of cultural and civic endeavors." “The last time I accepted an award, I accidentally wound up running for president,” Winfrey, 64, told the audience. “So I’m going to choose my words very carefully today.” ... Hollywood mogul and MoMA benefactor David Geffen was among those attending." [Bloomberg]

"Carlyle Co-Founder Says Guns Are Off-Limits for His $195 Billion Fund" by Eliza Ronalds-Hannon: "David Rubenstein’s $195 billion private equity firm, Carlyle Group LP, has never invested in guns or tobacco, Rubenstein said in an interview on Monday with Freakonomics Radio. “When I set up the firm with my partners, I said I didn’t want to do certain things, that I found them antithetical to my own beliefs,” Rubenstein told Stephen Dubner. “So I didn’t want to invest in tobacco-related products. We’ve never done that. I didn’t want to invest in firearms, guns. We’ve never done that,” he said." [Bloomberg]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT... "Special counsel has examined episodes involving Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer" by Rosalind Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey: "Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has requested documents and interviewed witnesses about incidents involving Michael Cohen, the longtime lawyer for President Trump... Cohen is also among nine Trump associates whose communications with former Trump aide Sam Nunberg are being sought by the special counsel... Cohen has been seen far less in the White House during the past six months but remains in regular contact with the president, according to people familiar with his role." [WashPost]

"'Man of mystery' cooperates with Mueller in Russia probe" by Shimon Prokupecz, Kara Scannell and Sara Murray: "George Nader, a low-profile diplomatic go-between who has forged close ties to the Emirates, was stopped and questioned by the FBI at Dulles International Airport in January as he returned from an overseas trip... Since then, he has been talking to Mueller's investigators and providing information to the grand jury." [CNN]

LongRead: "The source: How hacked emails and a yacht in Monaco ended my career at The Wall Street Journal" by Jay Solomon: "Hackers—likely state-sponsored—went after me, I believe, to hurt one of my sources and throw me off the Iran story, which dominated my career for nearly a decade. My mistakes gave those hackers and their employers the ammunition they needed to end my career at the Journal... in the heat of pursuing stories, reporters don’t always think about managing perceptions. But I was also concerned about losing [Farhad] Azima as a source and access to the world he offered. I walked a fine line and probably talked in ways that gave false impressions. Because I never signed onto any business, nor did anything close to engaging in one, I figured the emails were irrelevant..." [CJR]

DEEP DIVE -- "When Israel Hatched a Secret Plan to Assassinate Iranian Scientists" by Ronen Bergman: "The Iranians quickly realized that someone was killing their scientists and began guarding them closely... The Iranians posted cars full of cops around their homes, making their lives a nightmare and pitching them and their families into profound anxiety. The series of successful operations also had an additional effect, one that Israel did not initiate but that ended up working to its benefit: Iran began to fear that Israel had penetrated their ranks, and thus started devoting huge efforts to locating their leaks and trying to protect their personnel against the Mossad. The Iranians also became paranoid about the possibility that all the equipment and materials they’d acquired on the black market for their nuclear project—for very large sums of money—were infected, and they examined and reexamined each item over and over. These efforts greatly slowed the progress of the nuclear project as a whole." [PoliticoMag

TALK OF OUR NATION: "Digging Up the Past in a Jewish Cemetery: In Wroclaw, Poland, the fate of an old graveyard collides with the promise of a new Best Western hotel" by Agnieszka Jablonska: "In 2017, when work on the [Best Western] hotel began, heavy machinery entered the site, and human remains were unearthed... In addition to buttons from German military uniforms and Nazi badges with swastikas—suggesting that the Jewish cemetery had also been used by the Nazis during WWII—the remains of 100 humans were uncovered, along with more than 30 fragments of stone matzevot, and a fragment of a Hebrew text encased in a clump of hard soil... The regional monument preservation office halted construction works in 2017, allowing archeologists to do their work. However, since then, government authorities at all levels have shown little concern about the outcomes of the excavations. The city reportedly maintains the land was purchased legally and has not revoked the construction permit." [TabletMag]

"U.S. Holocaust Museum Revokes Award to Aung San Suu Kyi" by Michael Schwirtz: "The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has revoked a prestigious human rights award it had given to the Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, now Myanmar’s civilian leader, faulting her for failing to halt or even acknowledge the ethnic cleansing of her country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who endured 15 years of house arrest for taking on the military dictatorship in Myanmar, was only the second person to receive the award, in 2012." [NYTimes]

"Israeli shepherdess uses modern sheep breed to revive ancient shofar sound" by Rinat Harash: "The spotted breed of Jacob Sheep was bred in England in the 17th and 18th centuries, and this flock was brought to Israel from Canada by [Jenna] Lewinsky in 2016... “The Jacob Sheep horns can probably be processed anywhere in the world but what makes the horns special is that we are processing them in Israel, which gives them a holiness,” she said. Robert Weinger, a shofar-maker who works with the horns from Lewinsky’s farm, said that a ram’s horn made from the breed can sell for $500 to $20,000 or more, depending on its sound quality." [Reuters

RISING STAR: "How an unlikely Jewish genealogist caught the family history bug" by Peggy Fletcher Stack: "Like many amateur genealogists, Ari Ehrlich started out just wanting to see if he was related to British royalty. You know, like Prince George and Princess Charlotte... As word spread of the genealogist’s successes in ferreting out relationships, the mayor of Tuxedo Park, N.Y., where Ari grew up, approached the family at a picnic and asked: “I’m adopted. Do you think Ari could find my birth mother?” To that challenge, Ari replied: “I will not rest until I find her.” Of course, he’ll have to do that detective work before bedtime. Ari just turned 12. “My Aunt Lizzie got me the Ancestry account,” he says, “I’ve been geeking out ever since.” All this “geeking out” has taught Ari how to do methodical research, to compile data, to try to explain inconsistencies in the records. His mom, Katie Rosman, a reporter for The New York Times, says she has seen the work build empathy and wonder in the budding genealogist." [SLTrib]

"Purim Is a Sacred Jewish Holiday — and a Wild Two-Day Party" by John LeLand: "There may be more fun holidays on the calendar than the 48-hour Jewish celebration of Purim, which ended March 1, but not many. Orthodox Jewish communities tend to be in full party mode, with children wearing rabbinical beards or flamboyant costumes. But Mark Abramson, who spent this Purim taking photographs in two very different Hasidic neighborhoods in Brooklyn, said he also experienced something deeper. It got a little crazy,” said Mr. Abramson, who is Jewish but not observant. “They really partied hard. But it felt more about unity and the welcoming spirit. It’s an amazingly joyous holiday. I got invited into people’s homes, even in the Satmar community. That doesn’t happen during the year." [NYTimes]

PIC OF THE DAY -- Actor Jeremy Piven with the Zusha Music crew in Los Angeles [Pic]

SPOTTED BY A JI READER: Sean Spicer having coffee at Pret A Manger near Dupont Circle this morning [Pic]

TRANSITION -- Dr. Merryl Tisch has been appointed as Vice Chair of the State University of New York (SUNY) Board of Trustees by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Dr. Tisch was head of the Board of Regents, New York's governing body for education, from 2009 to 2016.

SCENE LAST NIGHT IN NYC -- Merryl and James Tisch hosted a cocktail reception to welcome former NYC Councilman David Greenfield as the new CEO of Met Council, who is now in his third month at the helm of New York City's largest Jewish charity. "Met Council is embracing technology to battle poverty. We're saving money, providing better service and serving more clients than ever before," Greenfield said as he detailed his vision for organization. [Pic]

SPOTTED: Met Council Co-Presidents Ben Tisch and Joseph Allerhand, Steven Price, UJA's Eric Goldstein, Jeffrey Feil, Rob Capito, David Lichtenstein, Raanan Agus, Ziel and Helene Feldman, Isaac Corre, Rebecca Feit, Ralph Herzka, Linda and Jerome Spitzer, Betsy and Ben Lopata, Jeffrey Schoenfeld, Jennifer Yashar, Ken Fox, Susie Stern, Gary Barnett, Stacy Scheinberg, Joseph Shenker, Daniella Tisch, Joe Sitt, Andrew Rechtshaffen, Lisa and Larry Cohen, Randi Schatz, Simon Ziff, Karen Kasner, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Bret Barth, Jodi Schwartz, George Klein, Lisa and Barry Bergman, Yossi Prager.

TODAY IN BERLIN -- Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu, head of the European Beth Din, will receive the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, one of Germany’s highest honors, in recognition of his contribution to the German Jewish community in a ceremony at the offices of Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. 

BIRTHDAYS: Nationally syndicated columnist for The Washington Times since 1984, author and social observer, Suzanne Bregman Fields, Ph.D. turns 82... Biologist, president of the California Institute of Technology (1997-2006) and 1975 Nobel laureate in Medicine, David Baltimore turns 80... Bureau chief for the AP in Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi, London and Tokyo, president of the National Press Club in 2014, since 2005 a journalism educator at George Washington University, Myron Belkind turns 78... Former Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company from 1984-2005, Michael Eisner turns 76... Geneticist and 2017 Nobel Prize laureate in Medicine, his parents were immigrants who had fled Nazi Germany in 1938, his father was the cantor of Boston's Temple Ohabei Shalom, Michael Rosbash turns 74... Retired media executive who was a member of the first co-ed class at Yale University in 1969, Ruth Barbara Jarmul turns 69...

Vice-Chairman and general trust counsel of Fiduciary Trust International, Gail Ehrlich Cohen turns 62... Award-winning freelance journalist, author and adjunct professor at Philip Merrill College of Journalism at University of Maryland, Anne Farris Rosen turns 62... Democratic political strategist, SVP at TruBlu Politics, Lewis H. Cohen turns 58... Academy Award winning actress, Rachel Weisz turns 48... Assistant News Director for DC's NBC4 News, adjunct professor of journalism at American U, Matt Glassman turns 48... Brooklyn-based political consultant and attorney focused on media relations, formerly director of intergovernmental affairs for Senator Schumer, Michael Tobman turns 45... Staff writer for U.S. News & World Report covering law enforcement, criminal justice, STEM and healthcare, Alan Neuhauser turns 31... Attorney Sasha Ahuva Farahi... Senior publicist in the media relations group at MSNBC, Rachel Zuckerman... Jake Hirth... Yaakov Spira...