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HEARD LAST NIGHT IN NYC -- Former President George W. Bush during a joint conversation with outgoing Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky at Cipriani on Broadway: “You know what the bad thing is? For the first time in a long time, [Vladimir] Putin is in the Middle East."
The former President also suggested Russia is not a democracy. “Not Really,” Bush said when asked by the moderator if he considers Russia a democracy. “What Putin has done is he’s undermined civil society. You can’t have a truly functioning democracy without a robust civil society. During my presidency, he got rid of the independent media. And so people say, ‘Oh man, he’s really popular in Russia,’ and my answer is: Hell, I’d been popular if I owned NBC Anytime you hear a leader say, ‘I am indispensable, I must stay in power. My country can’t survive without me in power,’ that’s not a democracy.” [JewishInsider]
OUR WONDERING MIND... after reading these headlines in recent days: "With inspiring performance at AIPAC, Netanyahu seeks to show he’s indispensable" [ToI] ... "To survive scandals, Netanyahu relies on mantra: no one else can lead Israel" [CSMonitor]
So do Bush 43's comments apply to Bibi, who was in attendance at last night's dinner, as well? "The plain language of the comment is that it applies everywhere, no?" a former White House aide to President Bush replied when we asked. However, Aaron David Miller argued, "No, Bush 43 considered Israel a very special place and a democratic ally." Miller added, "The leader in a democracy —however imperfect — even those that may have considered themselves indispensable — are still constrained by institutions; elections, courts. Russia is not a democracy and Putin is far less constrained than a leader like Netanyahu. And Israel -- however imperfect -- is a democracy."
"Netanyahu Meets Confidant Sheldon Adelson, Owner of Newspaper at Center of Corruption Probe Against Him, in N.Y. Event" by Noa Landau: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised his long-time ally... Sheldon Adelson at an event honoring the departing Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky in New York. "There are no bigger philanthropists in the Jewish world today. Birthright, Yad Vashem, medical centers, college campuses, you name it- the Adelsons are doing it. Thank you, thank you both, for all that you do for the Jewish people and the Jewish state," he said." [Haaretz; Pic]
BUZZ ON BALFOUR -- "Netanyahu mocks reasons behind corruption probes" by Orly Azoulay: "Speaking at the Economic Club in Washington as part of his five-day trip to the US, Netanyahu mocked the probes being conducted against him, insinuating that Israeli authorities launch graft cases against him over trivia. "You met with President Trump and I noticed that you are wearing a red tie that he often wears, is that something that he gave you as a gift?" the Prime Minister was asked. "That could be investigated too so I won’t answer," Netanyahu replied." [Ynet]
REPORT -- "Netanyahus tried to push moguls to fund Israeli version of Fox News" by Sue Surkes: "Israeli police are looking into suspicions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara tried to get billionaires Arnon Milchen, James Packer and Rupert Murdoch to invest $25 million each in a new Israeli right-wing commercial TV channel." [ToI]
ON THE HILL -- "Netanyahu Warns U.S. Lawmakers About Saudi Nuclear Power Deal" by Ari Natter: "Netanyahu, during a closed door meeting with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington on Tuesday, spoke out against any agreement that would allow the Saudis to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium, Senator Bob Corker, the committee’s chairman, said in an interview. "He certainly is opposed," said Corker. Senator Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who also attended the meeting, said, "I think his view is that they need fewer nuclear weapons and fewer nuclear materials, not more nuclear materials in the Middle East."" [Bloomberg]
"A glimpse inside Saudi Arabia in photos" by Tamara Cofman Wittes: "From February 19-25, Brookings Senior Fellow Tamara Cofman Wittes traveled to Saudi Arabia with Brandeis University’s Crown Center for Middle East Studies. The group visited Riyadh, Jizan, and Jeddah."[Brookings]
"New U.S. Embassy May Be in Jerusalem, but Not in Israel" by Isabel Kershner: "The diplomatic compound that will serve as the American Embassy until a permanent site is found lies partly in a contested zone known as No Man’s Land... between the armistice lines drawn at the end of the 1948-49 war and was claimed by Jordan and Israel. Israel won full control of it in the 1967 war, so the United Nations and much of the world consider it occupied territory. The State Department has avoided taking a clear position on the matter... The dispute could turn the American ambassador, David M. Friedman... into a new kind of diplomatic settler himself. .. Eugene Kontorovich, the director of international law at the conservative Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, contends that by moving the embassy to the Arnona site the United States is recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over areas it captured in the 1967 war." [NYTimes]
HEARD YESTERDAY - Education Minister Naftali Bennett reacted to the Trump administration's opposition to his annexation bill during a briefing with reporters at the Israeli Consulate in New York. "I will remind you that Menachem Begin did the same (declare Israeli sovereignty) with the Golan Heights in 1981. America was vehemently opposed and to this day does not recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel, but he had the courage and he did it. We got some heat from a couple of months from the Reagan administration, and we are still here to talk about it," Bennett told Jewish Insider's Jacob Kornbluh when asked how he intends to move forward with his proposed sovereignty bill, given the Trump administration's objection.
"I am not running the country as of now. It's a bit difficult. My job is to inch forward. We don't have to change it (applying Israeli law on all of Judea and Samaria) overnight. It's got to be gradual, and I also want to sell the Israeli public on the rationale. You start with more consensus areas like Ma'ale Adumim, like Gush Etzion, and you begin the process. There's a pace in life. It's okay if it takes another 10 years, 20 years, or 30 years. We are going to be here for thousands of years to come. We've got strategic patience."
Bennett on the Taylor Force Act: “When folks push bills forward in Israel and in America, it can either be a symbolic bill - which matters - or a material bill, which really matters. I view Taylor Force as the latter, potentially - if it’s not watered down By taking the money off the table, that will save lives. Some terrorists will not go out and do that attack if indeed the Palestinian Authority stops doing this. I want to thank the U.S. for doing this. This is a real gift, and certainly from an American perspective, it’s just crazy that American taxpayers that live in Minnesota or New York City are paying the PA to pay terrorists to kill Jews. Taylor Force is just and effective.”
VIEW FROM RAMALLAH -- "Palestinians change tack on Trump" by Daoud Kuttab: "After initially jumping on every pro-Israel decision, statement or tweet by US President Donald Trump, Palestinian leaders appear to have adopted a new tactic. They seem to have come to the conclusion that many of Trump's actions and words are intended for his base rather than part of a well-thought-out foreign policy..." [Al-Monitor]
PROFILE -- "Mahmoud al-Aloul is Fatah’s first vice president. Does that make him the next Palestinian leader?" by Grant Rumley: "Aloul is not nearly as wedded as the President to diplomacy, nor is he afraid to embrace positions that Abbas typically avoids. Most noticeably, he has long been skeptical of the peace process. “With the current course of action that the U.S. has adopted, it’s not possible to create peace,” Aloul told me, yet the U.S. still has to be involved: “How can you reach a point where Israel feels obligated to provide something if you don’t have the U.S.?” ... Perhaps Aloul’s biggest break with his leader is in his willingness to entertain, and even support, the one-state movement." [AmericanInterest]
"AIPAC's Struggle to Avoid the Fate of the NRA" by Peter Beinart: "Unlike the NRA, AIPAC must do business with whoever runs Congress and the White House, policy disagreements notwithstanding... But AIPAC doesn’t only fear polarization because it could undermine its influence. It also fears polarization because it could split the organization in two... AIPAC’s problem is that its bipartisanship is becoming harder to maintain. Democrats may constitute roughly half of AIPAC’s members, but their share could plummet in the years to come... If this year’s AIPAC conference had a theme, it was a loud, almost desperate, vow by the organization’s leaders to not let this happen." [TheAtlantic]
"AIPAC’s Next Big Battle Might Be With Israel" by Batya Ungar-Sargon: "If advocating for a two-state solution is going to be the fault line separating American and Israeli Jews — as increasingly it seems like it is — AIPAC may have to make a very tough, existential choice. This choice gets to the tension at AIPAC’s core. Is it a group that represents the American Jewish community? Or does it represent Israel’s interests on Capitol Hill, as the Israeli electorate defines them? And if the former, does it have a responsibility to reflect the Jewish community in its entirety, or only those who really, really care about Israel?" [TheForward]
DRIVING THE CONVO -- "Keith Ellison takes over the Democrats’ universal health-care bill" by David Weigel: "Rep. Keith Ellison, the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has replaced former congressman John Conyers Jr. as the sponsor of the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act... At the same time, Ellison (D-Minn.) is facing a new round of questions and attacks about his former support of Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam... In an interview, Ellison said that none of his colleagues raised concerns about the Farrakhan story, which has lit up in conservative media and on cable news, as he campaigned to take over H.R. 676... “None of my colleagues ever asked me about that, only reporters,” Ellison said. “I am telling you — no one cares. I’ve been all over Minnesota, all over Alabama... and nobody ever asked me about this... But for some reason, some folks in the Fourth Estate think that this Farrakhan thing needs to be inquired about instead.”" [WashPost]
INBOX -- RJC Calls on Seven Farrakhan-connected Members of Congress to Resign: "Seven long-serving Democrats have close ties with Louis Farrakhan. Each of them should resign," RJC's Matt Brooks said in a statement. "They include former Nation of Islam employee, Congressman Keith Ellison, who is Deputy Chair of the DNC. Ellison has tried to excuse his 2013 meeting with Farrakhan, while ignoring his more recent meeting with the NOI leader in Farrakhan’s hotel room, in 2015..."
J Street re-evaluating endorsement of congressman who praised Louis Farrakhan: “JStreetPAC, the arm of the liberal Israel lobby that funds and endorses candidates, currently lists Rep. Danny Davis, an Illinois Democrat as a candidate it supports. The endorsement, first reported in the Forward, calls Davis “a longtime supporter of Israel and a two-state solution.” But a J Street spokesman wrote in an email to JTA that the lobby is speaking with Davis’ office and reconsidering that endorsement.” [JTA]
"Why Won’t Women’s March Leaders Denounce Louis Farrakhan’s Anti-Semitism?" by Jesse Singal: "It’s simply difficult to think of any other situation in the left-of-center universe where the response to hate speech would be anything like this, where the act of responding aggressively to that hate speech would be seen as a “distraction” or a political trap to be avoided. The Women’s March, throughout this whole controversy, just hasn’t come across as taking anti-Semitism very seriously." [NYMag]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Carl Icahn denies knowing about steel tariffs before stock sale [Axios] How Much Could Gary Cohn’s Resignation Cost the Trump Hotel? [Washingtonian] Telecom Italia and the Battle of the Billionaires [WSJ] Univision board Chairman Haim Saban made the announcement Wednesday night that CEO Randy Falco to retire as media company struggles [LATimes] Taboola Projects $1 Bil In 2018 [MediaPost]
SPOTLIGHT: "Ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick launches his comeback with new fund" by Sara Ashley O'Brien: "Kalanick, who was ousted as CEO of Uber in June, announced Wednesday that he's started a new investment fund called 10100. The fund, pronounced "ten one hundred," will center on real estate, e-commerce, and innovation in China and India, he said in a statement posted on his social media accounts." [CNN; WSJ]
--Spotted: Kalanick grabbing drinks at the Royalton Park Rooftop in NYC last night.
"Ultimate Fighting TV Rights Go Begging in Test for Superagent" by Lucas Shaw: "Hollywood superagent Ari Emanuel’s reputation as a legendary dealmaker is being put to the test. Emanuel’s Endeavor has spent months trying to sell TV rights to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the mixed martial arts league his company bought for about $4 billion in 2016 with the private-equity firms Silver Lake Partners and KKR... But no buyer has stepped up to pay the $300 million to $400 million a year Endeavor wants, people close to the talks said." [Bloomberg]
COMING SOON -- Julia Ioffe is writing a book on Russia for HarperCollins imprint Ecco scheduled for publication in 2020: “It is a combination of personal memoir and original reporting that looks to really get at Russia and the Russian psyche,” Ecco executive editor Denise Oswald told Politico’s Michael Calderone. Ioffe recently left her staff position at The Atlantic, though she remains a contributing writer. [MorningMedia]
"Kushner Meets With Mexican President, Underscoring Shift in U.S. Diplomacy” by Azam Ahmed and Nicholas Casey: “The encounter between Mexico’s president and [Jared] Kushner, a political newcomer whose top-secret security clearance was stripped last month, underscored the profound shift in approach that the Trump administration has taken with Mexico, and with the region more broadly. Officials announced the visit less than a day before it happened, offering no guidance on what would be discussed. Kushner, who also met with Mexico’s foreign minister, did not invite the American ambassador — Roberta S. Jacobson, a diplomat with more than 30 years of experience in the region — to join him in the meetings.” [NYTimes]
PROFILE -- "New York City Appoints Its First Nightlife Mayor" by Alan Feuer: "In her first interview since accepting the post, [Ariel] Palitz suggested that her stint as the Nightlife Mayor would be slightly more sober and focus less on carousing than on conflict mediation... In her early 20s, she took her first night life job, managing the guest list at the old Club Mars... Now in charge of a mayoral office with a 12-person advisory board, a $300,000 budget and a salary of $130,000 a year, Ms. Palitz seems to have realized that even a doyenne of New York night life must make a few concessions when joining city government. On her Tuesday evening drink, she was accompanied, for instance, by a minder from City Hall. While she admits that there were times in her career when she personified “what the no-bar movement rejected,” she also claimed that she has always tried “to find solutions that work for everyone.”"[NYTimes; AMNY]
"Kew Gardens Hills: A Little Town in Central Queens" by Julie Lasky: "Once largely populated by assimilated Jews... it now supports one of the biggest Orthodox Jewish communities in New York City. Main Street is crammed with kosher food stores with names like Holy Schnitzel. Synagogues have proliferated, making it easy for residents to walk to services, as the rules of Sabbath observance require. Processions of baby carriages glide down the road, bearing the scions of growing families... The variety of kosher restaurants includes Chinese (Soysauce Glatt Kosher Chinese, at 68-22 Main Street), Mexican (Carlos & Gabby’s, at 67-11 Main Street) and Italian/Japanese (Benjy’s Kosher Pizza Dairy Restaurant & Sushi Bar, at 72-72 Main Street)..." [NYTimes]
DESSERT -- "Kosher restaurant planned for downtown Baltimore office building" by Amanda Yeager: "A new restaurant serving up a rotating array of kosher dishes is coming soon to downtown Baltimore... Chef Daniel Neuman, of kosher steakhouse Serengeti in Pikesville, will help launch the new concept, which he said will offer "not only healthy and fresh options to the area for lunch, but also a twist of something new and different." True to its name, the eatery will offer a changing daily special... Ayelet Dresin, who is helping to coordinate the Daily Special's launch, said the restaurant will be open for lunch and will follow a Chipotle-like concept, with customers "going down the line and picking items for a green bowl or salad bowl.""[BizJournals]
BIRTHDAYS: Former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain (1991-2013), member of the House of Lords, philosopher, scholar and winner of the 2016 Templeton Prize, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks turns 70... Founder and CEO of 32 Advisors, previously President of UBS Investment Bank, Robert Wolf turns 56... Jazz pianist and composer, Dick Hyman turns 91... Democratic US Representative for California's 47th congressional district since 2013, Alan Lowenthal turns 77... British television executive and businessman, former chairman of the BBC, member of the House of Lords, Michael Grade (family name Winogradsky) turns 75... Graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, he retired as an attorney at Seyfarth Shaw and is now the 'Judaism and Science' blogger, Roger Price turns 74... Lyricist, singer, songwriter, painter and philanthropist,Carole Bayer Sager turns 71... Licensed clinical psychologist and director of couple therapy training at the Chicago Center for Family Health, Dr. Mona Fishbane turns 71... Senior Fellow on national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress, Alan Makovsky turns 68... Brenda Krantz turns 68...
Former Governor of Virginia (1994-1998) and US Senator (2001-2007), whose mother was from a Sephardic Jewish family in Tunisia, George Allen turns 66... Retired in 2016 after 28 years as the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester NY, Larry Fine turns 66... Journalist, author and media analyst, managing editor of the WNYC radio program "On the Media" which is syndicated nationwide to over 400 public radio outlets,Brooke Gladstone turns 63... DC-based labor and employment attorney at Bredhoff & Kaiser, clerked for Justice Brennan at the U.S. Supreme Court (1983-1984), Bruce R. Lerner turns 61... Talent acquisition executive at Sageview Consulting, specializing in placements at Jewish federations and non-profits, Colorado Springs resident, Carin Maher turns 55... Vice chairman of the Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago, with a Ph.D. in Chinese politics from Stanford University, high-ranking State Department official (2001-2009), Evan A. Feigenbaum turns 49...
Albany Reporter for New York's news channel NY1, Zack Fink turns 45... Harvard Law grad, member of Congress since 2017 (D-NJ:5), former speechwriter for Bill Clinton, Joshua S. Gottheimer turns 43... Alexis Riceturns 40... Principal for corporate communications at CamberView Partners, he was the communications director for NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Eric Louis Sumberg turns 36 (h/t Playbook)... Manager of Public Policy at the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership of The Forbes Funds, previously press secretary at NJDC, David Streeter turns 31... Senior digital and marketing associate at Catalist (a voter data service for progressive organizations), Lauren Farber turns 30... Los Angeles-based writer, Amanda Botfeld turns 21... Program analyst at Mathematica Policy Research, Karen Katz... Student at Harvard Law School, he was a special assistant to the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, Nathaniel Sobel... Charleston native, Lexi Chavin... Jeff Sonderman...