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PALACE INTRIGUE: “Kushner’s Relationship With Trump Tested as Russia Accusations Swirl” by Glenn Thrush, Maggie Haberman and Sharon LaFraniere: “Mr. Kushner, an observant Jew, spent the Sabbath in fretful seclusion with his wife, Ivanka Trump, at his father-in-law’s resort in Bedminster, N.J., unplugged, per religious custom, from electronics In a statement to The New York Times on Sunday night, Mr. Trump said: “Jared is doing a great job for the country. I have total confidence in him. He is respected by virtually everyone and is working on programs that will save our country billions of dollars. In addition to that, and perhaps more importantly, he is a very good person.” But in recent weeks the Trump-Kushner relationship, the most stable partnership in an often unstable West Wing, is showing unmistakable signs of strain.”
“The most serious point of contention between the president and his son-in-law was a video clip this month of Mr. Kushner’s sister, Nicole Meyer, pitching potential investors in Beijing on a Kushner Companies condominium project in Jersey City For Mr. Trump, Ms. Meyer’s performance violated two major rules. Politically, it undercut his immigration crackdown, and in a personal sense, it smacked of profiteering off Mr. Trump In the following days, the president made several snarky, disparaging comments about Mr. Kushner’s family and the visas during routine West Wing meetings that were clearly intended to express his annoyance, two aides said. Mr. Kushner did not respond, at least not in earshot.”
“Mr. Kushner sees his role as a freelance troubleshooter, but he has focused on foreign policy, friends say, because he saw a gap in the White House structure in that area. Top administration officials know the importance of cultivating him... and he serves as a sounding board for officials like Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, according to Elliott Abrams “I hear more worries about the president than about Jared,” he said. “In fact, I never hear complaints about Jared.” But Jason D. Greenblatt, the White House adviser on international negotiations, said that on the Middle East at least, Mr. Kushner is not just a sounding board, but an adviser who helps shape policy options for the president He said Mr. Kushner deserves a substantial part of the credit for Mr. Trump’s recent trip to the Middle East. “Jared put together all the moving parts,” he said. “It went great.”” [NYTimes]
Jeffrey Goldberg: "Inadvertent byproduct of Kushner controversy: People are learning about the little-known but v. important holiday of Shavuot." [Twitter]
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: “Why Would Jared Kushner Trust Russian Officials So Much?” by Adam Serwer: "What is unusual and borderline disturbing about this is less that it cut out the State Department or cut out the intelligence community; I think there is a precedent for both of those things in back-channels," said Jon Finer, former State Department chief of staff under John Kerry. “It shows a level of trust in Russian intelligence, and Russian diplomatic personnel beyond the level of trust afforded to American intelligence and American personnel.” [TheAtlantic]
FRUSTRATED “Russia scandal casts uncertainty over Kushner’s future role” by Annie Karni and Josh Dawsey: “The spotlight on Kushner’s involvement with the Russians comes at a time when the powerful son-in-law has been telling associates that he is frustrated with his job. Two associates who have spoken to Kushner in recent weeks described him as “unhappy” and “miserable,” in part because he has not been able to make the changes he wants to under his father-in-law.” [Politico]
BUT NOT QUITTING “Trump Returns to Crisis Over Kushner as White House Tries to Contain It” by Maggie Haberman, Glenn Thrush and Julie Hirschfeld Davis: “[Jared] Kushner has no plans to step down from his role as senior adviser or to reduce his duties, according to people close to him. Still, there are signs that he is tiring of the nonstop combat and the damage to his reputation. He has told friends that he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, have made no long-term commitment to remain by Mr. Trump’s side, saying they would review every six months whether to return to private life in New York.” [NYTimes]
“A high-stakes gamble: How Jared Kushner reacted to previous crises” by Michael Kranish and Jonathan O'Connell: “Taking charge of the business after his father went to prison, Kushner, 25 at the time, paid $1.8 billion in 2007 for the nation’s most expensive office building. Then the market went south, the debts piled up, and Kushner spent years pushing banks to renegotiate the loans. But after one disgruntled lender had tried to block him, Kushner had an unusual weapon at his disposal: He owned a newspaper. Kushner, who had purchased the New York Observer in 2006, walked into his editor’s office and suggested a story exposing potentially embarrassing details about the uncooperative lender. “I could tell he was angry at the guy,” said the editor, Elizabeth Spiers, who resigned in 2012 That followed a separate incident in which Kushner wanted a “hit job” on another foe, a second Observer editor told The Washington Post.” [WashPost]
TRUMP’S TRUTH-O-METER -- Trump in speech to U.S. troops and their families at Naval Air Base in Sigonella, Italy: “I went to Jerusalem, where I reaffirmed our unbreakable bond with the State of Israel... I visited Bethlehem, a city so precious to so many, and met with the Palestinian leader, President Abbas. He assured me he is willing to reach for peace with Israel in good faith -- and I believe he will -- and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who assured me that he, too, was ready to reach for peace. He’s a friend of mine, and he means it.” [YouTube]
"'Trump rebuked Abbas over Palestinian incitement'" by Daniel Siryoti: "According to Channel 2 News, Trump... angrily accused Abbas of lying "about your commitment to peace," saying, "You lied to me in Washington when you talked about commitment to peace, but the Israelis showed me you were personally responsible for incitement." ... The Palestinian official said Abbas responded by saying that "in the past, there was a joint Palestinian-Israeli committee that sought to deal with incitement on both sides, but it has not met for years..." The officials said that at this point, Trump lost his patience and interrupted Abbas, banging his fist on the table and admonishing him, saying, "You can talk about how much you want peace, but that's empty [rhetoric]."" [IsraelHayom; ToI]
"Palestinians Dismiss Reports of Yelling During Trump-Abbas Meeting as pro-Israel Propaganda" by Jack Khoury: "A senior Palestinian figure privy to the content of the meeting told Haaretz that the conversation was practical and there was a feeling that Trump arrived with great drive to push peace forward. "It's no secret that Trump has a group of advisers around him whose main goal is to serve Israel. Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and Ambassador David Friedman are also Netanyahu's advisers, not just Trump's, so our feeling is that they will try to prevent any move that harms Israel's position, and we're certain that the goal of these kind of reports is to serve this interest."" [Haaretz]
“What Did Trump Accomplish on His First Foreign Trip?” by Eliot A. Cohen: "The visit to Israel was merely silly The Israelis welcomed his protestations of friendship, shrugged their shoulders at his chumminess with Bibi Netanyahu, quietly resolved to be more judicious in the future about what intelligence they share with the Americans, and after likely heaving a sigh of relief when Trump’s plane took off, went about celebrating the 50th anniversary of their 1967 victory.What Trump certainly did not do, because it is impossible, is advance a long-term Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. At the moment, no Palestinian leader will accept an agreement that does not re-divide Jerusalem and provide for a right of return, but will acknowledge the legitimacy of the Jewish claim to the land of Israel. No Israeli leader can accept the former or conclude an agreement without the latter.” [TheAtlantic]
COMING SOON: “The $1.4 billion bet on a new Palestinian future” by William Booth: “Rawabi is the first planned city in the West Bank built by Palestinians for Palestinians, a $1.4 billion metropolis constructed over the last nine years from bare rock When he was a teenager, [Bashar] Masri shot the finger at Israeli soldiers. Now he is one of the richest men in the Palestinian territories. When he was young, he went to the United States, got his degree in chemical engineering at Virginia Tech, married an American, had two daughters, and was awarded U.S. citizenship. “I love America,” Masri said. But he came home to the West Bank in the 1990s. “I dreamed there would be a Palestinian state,” he said. He thought everyone would come home to build it. “But honestly there weren’t many,” he said.” [WashPost]
ALTERNATIVE: “Why the Palestinian Authority Should Be Shuttered” by Diana Buttu: “To remove this noose that has been choking Palestinians, the authority must be replaced with the sort of community-based decision making that predated the body’s establishment. And we must reform our main political body, the Palestine Liberation Organization, which Mr. Abbas also heads, to make it more representative of the Palestinian people and their political parties, including Hamas. Hamas has long indicated that it wants to be part of the P.L.O., and its revised charter, recently released in Doha, Qatar, affirms this aspiration.” [NYTimes]
Aaron David Miller: “A bold Palestinian proposal for ending the PA likely to leave Palestinians worse off than they are now.” [Twitter]
Amb. Dani Dayan: "BTW, both NY Times and Diana Buttu failed to mention she is an Israeli citizen and as such she enjoys full civil rights." [Twitter]
KAFE KNESSET -- Is the White House recognizing Jerusalem? -- by Tal Shalev and JPost's Lahav Harkov: Next week, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan are co-hosting a bi-country simultaneous event with live video between the Capitol and the Knesset. The event honors 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem and was organized by Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer... and there could be interesting diplomatic implications. Sources tell Kafe Knesset that either President Trump or Vice President Pence will speak at the event, while Netanyahu will speak on the Israeli side. The US government has never recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital -- not east, not west, not united, not divided. Having the executive branch take part in an event celebrating a united Jerusalem is a new development that could be seen as tacit recognition. On the other hand, the event will take place several days after Trump's deadline to sign a waiver postponing the US Embassy's move -- it falls on Thursday, the second day of Shavuot for those of you outside of Israel -- so we will know if the recognition is just tacit or out in the open before that.
Dore Gold, the former Foreign Ministry Director General, brought up the Taylor Force Act at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee this morning. He discussed how some politicians in DC say they do not support it because Israel does not support defunding the PA. Gold was adamant that, while Israel normally would not get involved in pending legislation in other countries, Jerusalem should make it very clear that it supports the Taylor Force Act. He said that when he ran the Foreign Ministry, they put out position papers against Palestinian incitement. MKs in the committee expressed frustration that, while everyone knows the Palestinians incite, the Israeli government is not doing enough to stop it - just complaining. They pointed to a bill by Yesh Atid's Elazar Stern that would cut tax money transferred to the PA by the amount given to terrorists. Yet, at this point, it does not look like the government will support the bill.
Lapid strikes back: One possible explanation for Lapid's drop in the polls is that he has been awfully quiet lately. His voice was not heard at all during Trump's visit. Today in the Knesset, he offered an explanation, that he did not think it was appropriate to criticize the government while a foreign leader was in town. However, Lapid did not hold back this time. The Yesh Atid leader said he is very concerned about the arms deal Trump signed with the Saudis. He called on AIPAC to ensure that Israel's friends in Congress make all elements of the deal transparent, and that the Defense Ministry must talk to the Pentagon to make sure Israel is adjusting in order maintain its qualitative edge. Lapid saved his sharpest barbs for Netanyahu, who he said is not taking the Saudi threat seriously enough: "The Prime Minister needs to stop worrying about the President's short fuse. For [Trump] the deal is about jobs and money - for Israel, it is a matter of life and death." Read today's entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
“Dems to tie Russia to Iran on sanctions” by Jonathan Swan: “A well-placed Senate Democratic aide emails this tip: "Expect many Senate Dems to push for the Senate to not do Iran sanctions without Russian sanctions." What this means: Democratic leaders will exploit the ties between Iran and Russia — and the administration's weak position with regard to anything concerning Russia — to demand that no new sanctions are imposed on Iran without additional sanctions to Russia. Our thought bubble: Democrats who support the Iran nuke deal, like former Secretary of State John Kerry... are anxious that imposing these sanctions could unravel the Iran deal.” [Axios]
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a member of the SFRC spoke of her opposition to the sanctions, telling Jewish Insider last week, “I have reservations about it. I am particularly concerned that we are acting on it when it’s more critical for us to act on Russia sanctions right now. I’m concerned about the impact it will have on the JCPOA.” [JewishInsider]
"As Iran and U.S. Leaders Trade Barbs, Big Deals Proceed" by Thomas Erdbrink: "Tough talk from both sides, but back in Iran, they are awaiting the delivery of a fleet of American-made Boeing airliners, the result of two deals worth $22 billion for the United States company... Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s recently re-elected president, suggested that the two sides could possibly arrange talks after the Trump administration had more time in power and Tehran had more time to evaluate the American leader..." [NYTimes]
“U.S. Sees a Vital Iraqi Toll Road, but Iran Sees a Threat” by Tim Arango: "Filtered through the prism of Iraq’s many media outlets that are linked to militias supported by Iran, the highway deal has become seen here as a conspiracy by the United States and Israel to occupy the country. One report claimed that the American security company involved in the highway “belongs to the Zionist Mossad.”” [NYTimes]
UK ELECTION WATCH: "Jeremy Corbyn describes banned terror group Hamas as 'serious and hardworking'" by Kate Ferguson: "Jeremy Corbyn described the Palestinian terror group Hamas as 'serious and hardworking' and called for the EU trade with Israel to be suspended. The Labour leader also said Hamas should not have to recognise the state of Israel before peace talks can begin, according to the newly-resurfaced 2010 radio interview... During the recording, broadcast by LBC, he said: ‘It is not a question of whether one agrees or disagrees with Hamas on its political strategies or indeed its social strategies. You have to recognise that the reality is they have a great deal of support... they are serious, hard-working and they are not corrupt."" [DailyMail] Jeremy Corbyn attended ceremony honouring Munich terrorist [TheJC]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Israel’s resilient economy can use a tune-up [CNBC] Ronald Lauder’s RWL Water to merge with Israeli firm Emefcy [JPost] Jeff Morr: Israel-Miami real estate connection stronger than ever [MiamiHerald] Israel’s tech startups are giving Silicon Valley a run for its money [NYPost] Cornell Tech’s Climate-Conscious Urban Campus Arises [NYTimes] Partner Communications to offer Netflix on new Israeli TV service [Reuters]
TOP TWEET -- Jake Sherman: "Today is a sad day. Roman Abromovich, whose plane i’ve been tracking for years, has blocked his tail number from being tracked!!" [Twitter]
TRANSITION: “Boardroom to bimah” by Lisa Wangsness: “Now, at age 50, [Jevin Eagle] the Harvard Business School graduate, corporate executive, and one of those responsible for turning the “Easy Button” into a workplace sensation is about to finish rabbinical school. And next month, he will begin as executive director of Boston University’s Hillel.” [BostonGlobe]
PROFILE: “Homework? First I Need to Get to the Bottom of This Comey Story” by Stuart Emmrich: “Gabe Fleisher is not a Washington pundit or a producer for CNN, but a 15-year-old freshman at a St. Louis high school. The free newsletter (Wake Up to Politics), which he has been writing in some form since he was 8, is a surprisingly sophisticated, well-researched summary of the day’s political news “To think that, at his age, that I would be waking up every morning, to do what he is doing, there are no words to describe how that would never happen,” said his father, Randy Fleisher, 53, a rabbi, sitting in the living room of the family’s two-story brick home in University City, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, as Gabe sat across from him, checking his phone. “It’s a pretty remarkable thing.”” [NYTimes]
“Hillary Clinton Is Furious. And Resigned. And Funny. And Worried” by Rebecca Traister: “When I mention MSNBC’s hiring of conservatives including George Will, and the New York Times’ new climate-change-skeptic opinion columnist, Bret Stephens, her brow furrows. “Why would you do that?” she says. “Sixty-six million people voted for me, plus, you know, the crazy third-party people. So there’s a lot of people who would actually appreciate stronger arguments on behalf of the most existential challenges facing our country and the world, climate change being one of them! It’s clearly a commercial decision. But I don’t think it will work. I mean, they’re laughing on the right at these puny efforts to try to appease people on the right.”” [NYMag]
Bret Stephens responds: “I voted for HRC. Said so on FNC. Will left GOP on account of DJT. If this is how she now speaks of NeverTrumpers, no wonder she fell short..” [Twitter]
TALK OF THE TOWN: “‘Is This Even About Seth Rich At All?’” by Olivia Nuzzi: "Ed Butowsky, a Dallas businessman and personal friend to senior White House official Steven Bannon, got in touch with the Rich family. He used Facebook to find a connection to the Rich family, he told me, by writing a post that said, “’Does anybody know anyone who is Jewish in Omaha?’ Now, I’m a Jew so I can do this, ok?” Through this method, he was eventually put in touch with the Richs, and he provided them with the information on the phone. They weren’t convinced it was legitimate. But when they complained that the D.C. police had been slow to move on their investigation of the murder, Butowsky suggested they hire a private investigator, which he offered to pay for when they said it wasn’t financially feasible." [NYMag]
LONG-READ -- PERSONS OF INTEREST: "The Dovekeeper and the Children’s Intifada -- How a thirteen-year-old boy charged with taking part in a knife attack in Jerusalem became a Rorschach blot for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” by Geraldine Brooks: “In CCTV footage captured soon after, Ahmed and Hassan are seen strolling together toward the shopping district of Pisgat Ze’ev, an easy walk from their home once you get across the busy highway. They appear relaxed and unremarkable—two kids out for a walk after school. They amble out of the shot. Then, suddenly, the camera captures a very different image. A young man, wearing the white shirt and black trousers of the Orthodox, runs past the camera, desperately glancing behind him as the two boys, long knives now unsheathed, chase after him. Although Hassan had already stabbed the man, Yosef Ben Shalom, age twenty-one, in the upper body, he managed to outrun them."
"A few blocks away, Hassan Manasra was already dead, shot at close range by police officers as he’d rushed at them with his knife. Farther down the tram tracks, his cousin Ahmed lay where a car had struck him. The impact had sent him sprawling, his lower legs twisted up on either side of his body in a grotesque and unnatural shape, like an action figure cast aside by a careless child... The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was the first to cite the boy, erroneously claiming in a televised address that Israelis had summarily executed him. In answer, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released footage of Ahmed in Hadassah Medical Center, his head bandaged, being fed puréed food."
"Before Ahmed first appeared in court, he faced a difficult choice. Since he was below the age of criminal responsibility, if he pleaded guilty to attempted murder at his first hearing, the case would be closed and he could not be sent to prison. But had this happened, Tsemel believed, the Israeli outcry would have been such that the law would have been changed. “They would have found a way to detain him,” she said. In any case, Ahmed’s family would not allow a guilty plea. He had not touched either of the victims in the attacks. Forensics confirmed that his knife had not been used, and he maintained that he never had intent to kill. So Tsemel took the case to trial, knowing that on January 20, 2016, Ahmed’s fourteenth birthday, his protections as a minor would expire... On May 10, 2016, Ahmed Manasra was found guilty of two counts of attempted murder. He was sentenced to twelve years in prison." [NewYorker]
BIRTHDAYS: Jewish Insider's tireless NYC-based reporter, Jacob Kornbluh... Member of AIPAC's National Council and a Vice Chair of its New Leadership Network, board member of the Israel on Campus Coalition, former White House staffer, Alex Berger turns 34... Investment banker, previously US Ambassador to France (1997-2000), in the 1970s he was chairman of NYC's Municipal Assistance Corporation which kept the city out of bankruptcy, Felix Rohatyn turns 89... Board member of the Colliers County chapter of the Florida ACLU and the Naples Florida Council on World Affairs, Maureen McCully "Mo" Winograd turns 71... Actor, composer, singer, songwriter and record producer, Danny Elfman turns 64... Television writer, producer and actor, best known as the creator of the sitcom "Arrested Development" as well as the co-creator of "The Ellen Show," Mitchell Hurwitz turns 54... Ellen Ginsburg Beren turns 52... Economist on the faculty of the University of Chicago, co-author the best-selling books in the Freakonomics series, Steven Levitt turns 50... CEO and Executive Editor of 70 Faces Media, the parent company of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Amiram "Ami" Eden turns 44... Fashion designer and the founder and creative director of the fashion label Shoshanna (launched in 1998), style director for Elizabeth Arden, Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss turns 42... New York State Policy Director for the Orthodox Union's Advocacy Center, Jacob "Jake" Adler turns 31... Israeli-born baseball player and coach, now working in the Seattle Mariners' player development program, he coached for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Alon Leichman turns 28... Paul Morton...
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