Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: May 31, 2018

Drama around no Dems at Jerusalem Embassy opening continues | Inside the Kushner-Christie rivalry | Bob Iger's strategy on Trump

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks during a reception hosted by the Orthodox Union in Jerusalem ahead of the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018
\ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

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DRIVING THE CONVO -- U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in an interview with the Times of Israel: “Israel should never be a partisan issue. Everybody, on both sides, says that Israel should be a bipartisan issue. I am going to continue to work as hard as I can to keep it bipartisan. But bipartisan does not mean finding the lowest common denominator and pursuing that just in a blind effort to find consensus. The argument that I hear from some Democrats that Republicans are seizing the pro-Israel mantle is true, to a certain extent. There’s no question Republicans support Israel more than Democrats... What the Democrats are not doing is looking at themselves critically and acknowledging the fact that they have not been able to create support within their constituency for Israel at the same levels that the Republicans have." 

Friedman on the letter sent by Democratic members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee criticizing the White House for not inviting any Democratic members to the embassy's opening ceremony: "The White House did absolutely nothing to advantage or invite the Republicans. Or to disadvantage or disinvite the Democrats. It was their choice. Everyone who came chose to be there... The letter was in my view inappropriate. Every one of these congressmen has my phone number. They could’ve called me up and said, Listen, we want to go to this thing, can you get me in? Just like a thousand other people, who I know from former lives, who called me up..." [ToI

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) emails us... “The Administration planned this event. If the White House wanted a bipartisan delegation, it would have been bipartisan. There would have been serious outreach to Democrats and Democrats would have attended. That didn’t happen. Saying after the fact, ‘everyone was invited’ doesn’t cut it. I have worked for 30 years to make sure support for Israel is bipartisan, and I’ll continue to do so.”

INTERVIEW -- Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) responded to Rep. Joe Wilson's claim that he personally invited Democratic House members to join the Republican Congressional delegation to the Jerusalem Embassy opening in an interview with Jewish Insider's Jacob Kornbluh. Wilson's office has yet to provide us with a list of the Democratic members they claim to have invited. 

Nadler: “I don’t know who Joe Wilson talked to or didn’t. What I know is that he didn’t talk to me. Second of all, that’s not an official invitation and it’s not the way it is done. When there is something like this that needs to be arranged -- like Shimon Peres’ funeral or any official delegation -- it goes through the Speaker’s office and the Minority Leader’s office, and somebody decides how big the delegation will be. Then they split it up between the two parties and the leadership decides who to invite and the invitation is extended. For Shimon Peres’ funeral, all the Jewish members were invited and various others. That’s the way it’s done. Who knows what Joe Wilson’s authority was. That’s nonsense, and that’s not an official invitation, assuming he made it. What we know is that there was no official invitation extended to anybody."

“Now, someone said to me, why didn’t I go anyway? Because you can’t just go on your own. First of all, you have to get your own plane, and second of all, there are six layers of security -- if I go on my own, I would’ve ended up watching it in a hotel room on television in Tel Aviv. What was the point?”

Q: Was this intentional?

Nadler: “Yes. They obviously invited the Republicans and the moment it was over, the Republican Jewish Coalition already knew to come out and say that the Democrats boycotted it. How did they know that? Did they count everybody that was there?”

Q: You believe Republicans were playing politics with the event?

Nadler: “Absolutely. The Administration and the RJC immediately jumped on this to spread that Democrats decided to boycott this. Nobody decided to boycott anything. They arranged it in a way so it would be impossible for Democrats to go. They did the invitations, I don’t know how many people they invited -- and again, I don’t know what the custom is in the Senate, but that’s the way it’s done in the House. So when Lindsey Graham comes out and says whatever he says, I don’t know; maybe the Senators are such big shots that they hire their own planes so they don’t have to go through the State Department.”

Nadler on why he skipped Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer's reception in DC marking Israel's 70th anniversary: "The embassy party was on a Monday, Congress wasn't in session till Tuesday, so no one was in Washington. The first day the votes start at 6:30 PM, so nobody was there on the 14th [of May]. I understand that the 14th was Independence Day, according to the English calendar, but that wasn't right. You can make it the 15th and people would have been there. And, by the way, there is an Israeli Independence Day celebration on Sunday in NYC and I am going to be there." 

The Republican Jewish Coalition's Matt Brooks tells us “I don’t know what kind of engraved invitation Nadler wants. It’s an absurd point on his part and immature for him to say that he thought he’d be excluded out on the street when he would be part of a military-led congressional delegation representing the people of the United States and the Congress of the United States. This whole effort by the Democrats is offensive and insulting, especially in light of the fact that I am very well aware that a number of those people who signed the letter were not only asked to go, but unfortunately declined because they have other personal commitments, and now they want to represent that they have been excluded. It’s an insult to the congressional leaders who worked hard to show bipartisan support and it’s an insult to Ambassador [David] Friedman, and an insult to the people of the United States that they would try and undermine what is a historic event and call into question the commitment of these congressional leaders to work on a bipartisan trip."

Jewish Democratic Council of America chair Ron Klein: "It is truly unprecedented for a sitting U.S. Ambassador to Israel to engage in explicitly partisan rhetoric and behavior. Ambassador Friedman must remember that he is not the head of the Republican National Committee or the Republican Jewish Coalition political organization. He is the U.S. Ambassador, as confirmed by the U.S. Senate, to represent all Americans in Israel – not just those of one party, or those who share his political views. Ambassador Friedman should spend more time cultivating the historically bipartisan nature of the U.S.-Israel partnership, as opposed to being politically divisive in his words and actions, including his refusal to invite Democratic members of Congress to the Jerusalem embassy opening. This type of partisan behavior is damaging to our national interests and must stop immediately."

BUZZ ON BALFOUR -- "Wooing Trump Pays Off for Netanyahu as His Popularity Soars" by David Wainer: "Yoaz Hendel, a former adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, has become one of his fiercest right-wing critics... Now, even Hendel is reconsidering his views of the Israeli prime minister, impressed by his role in the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, the unraveling of the Iran nuclear deal, and Israel’s strikes against Iranian military forces in Syria. He’s not alone. Netanyahu’s popularity has surged in recent polls, overshadowing the graft probes..."

"Netanyahu’s grip on power is still potentially in jeopardy, and his political successes shouldn’t have a bearing on Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit’s decision whether to indict him in the corruption cases -- in theory at least. But it would take an especially aggressive attorney general to indict a popular, sitting prime minister for the first time in Israel’s history, said Eran Vigoda-Gadot, a political science professor at Haifa University... Netanyahu, already 12 years on the job, may be on his way to becoming his country’s longest-serving prime minister. “We are being bombarded by good news,” said Ran Baratz, another former Netanyahu aide. “The political forces that were positioning against him a few months ago understand that he’s now in full control again.” [Bloomberg]

DAILY KUSHNER -- "Ivanka and Jared's long game" by Mike Allen: "Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who dominated coverage early on with their unparalleled Oval Office access and various business and political controversies, now are out of the spotlight for long stretches... But the first daughter and son-in-law are hardly disappearing. Both just secured security clearance upgrades, continue to hold substantive portfolios, and tell friends they have no plans to bolt D.C. any time soon... While POTUS hammers away on illegal immigrants and the Mueller probe, Jared is working on Israeli-Palestinian peace... and NAFTA negotiations with Canada and Mexico."

"Kushner continues spearheading criminal justice reform, and met yesterday with Kim Kardashian to discuss prison reform. He also is focusing on building bipartisan relationships on Capitol Hill. His Office of American Innovation runs modernization projects that include government technology and patient data... The great unanswered mystery is whether they leave D.C. on their terms or Mueller's." [Axios]

-- Pics: "Ivanka smiling with Kim and her husband before Kardashian left the Kushner home at around 8pm on Wednesday." [DailyMail] Avi Berkowitz, Jared Kushner's deputy, with Kardashian [Pic

FIRST LOOK -- from Emily Jane Fox's upcoming book titled 'Born Trump' on the First Family's dynamic: "Tensions between Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, and brothers had also surfaced during the campaign. Eric told others during the run-up to the election that he felt Kushner, for his own gain, had taken advantage of some of the candidate’s weaknesses. Kushner’s family, likewise, had taken issue with their son, an observant Orthodox Jew, going to work on the Sabbath after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced, according to a person close to the family." 

-- On the Chris Christie, Charlie Kushner rivalry: "Jared Kushner’s rise to a senior position in the Trump campaign may have caused some friction with his brother-in-law Eric, but the most awkward family-campaign dynamics of all had to do with the Kushner clan’s own history. By the spring of 2016, Trump had settled on Chris Christie, then the governor of New Jersey, to run his transition team, and was even considering him as a potential running mate. The choice was awkward on many fronts... Jared Kushner still held a grudge against the governor—in part because the Kushner family believed that Christie, possibly out of spite, had balked at a decision that might have allowed Charlie Kushner the chance to depart prison a month early." 

"Unlike Charlie Kushner, who is known to have a ferocious temper, Jared, according to a person close to the family, often fumed quietly: the angrier he grew, oftentimes, the quieter he became. So when he opened his mouth that day, he was at little more than a whisper. It was rare for him to talk about his father’s stint in prison, but Kushner delivered an impassioned soliloquy. “It’s unfair,” Jared said at one point, succinctly, according to someone with direct knowledge of the conversation. “[Christie] took advantage of my family members for his own ambition.” [VanityFair]

TALK OF THE REGION -- "Russia's Shoigu, Israel's Lieberman discuss Syrian de-escalation zone" by  Polina Ivanov: "Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Thursday discussed a de-escalation zone in southern Syria with Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, TASS news agency said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces from Syria’s southern border with Israel should happen as soon as possible." [Reuters]

"Netanyahu and Pompeo discuss possible Syria deal" by Barak Ravid: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone [yesterday] with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and presented him with Israel's demands and interests for any future deal between the U.S., Russia and Jordan in Southern Syria." [Axios]

"Netanyahu’s dilemma on Hamas" by Ben Caspit: "Sources in the know on Netanyahu's thinking told Al-Monitor that in the past few weeks the prime minister has made a strategic decision to truly try achieving a stable cease-fire in Gaza... Netanyahu had decided to lower tensions along the southern front at the request of the Americans, too... Netanyahu knows that a “big move” — if not a “huge move” — is taking shape in the north, with the direct involvement of the Russians and Americans. In it, the Russians will agree to push the Iranians out of Syria, while Israel will agree to allow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army to return to southern Syria, including the Golan Heights border region... Given the current state of affairs, Netanyahu prefers to continue with his achievements in the north, even if it means giving up on the south." [Al-Monitor]

"Ex-Israeli spy chief: Netanyahu planned Iran strike in 2011" by Ilan Ben Zion: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the order in 2011 for the military to prepare to attack Iran within 15 days, a former Mossad chief said in remarks released on Thursday. Tamir Pardo, who served as head of the Israeli intelligence agency from 2011 to 2016, told Israeli Keshet TV’s investigative show Uvda that the order was not given “for the sake of a drill." ... “When he tells you to start the countdown process, you know that he isn’t playing games with you,” Pardo is quoted as saying. “These things have enormous significance.” ... It wasn’t clear from the preview what happened after Netanyahu’s purported order but Israel never carried out a strike on Iran in 2011." [AP]

TURTLE BAY -- "US envoy Nikki Haley decries UN's 'different standard' toward Israel" by Itamar Eichner: “You might think that the rest of the Security Council would join us in condemning a terrorist organization like Hamas. There shouldn’t be any debate about this. But of course, because this attack involves Israel, the standard is different,” [Haley] said in her opening remarks... "Who among us would accept 70 rockets launched into your country? We all know the answer to that. No one would." [Ynet; Video]

"U.S. Thwarted in Bid to Change U.N. Rights Council’s Approach to Israel" by Colum Lynch: "They seem to be headed for the exit,” said one European diplomat involved in the discussions with the United States... Kelley Currie, the U.S. representative to the U.N. for social and economic affairs, hosted two meetings at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations with a group of Western governments earlier this month to detail U.S. plans. She presented a copy of a U.S. draft General Assembly resolution that would eliminate a special category of rights violations — known as Agenda Item 7 — committed in occupied Palestinian territories. No other part of the world has its own agenda item. The U.S. resolution is part of a broader streamlining effort that would also make it easier to expel countries that abuse human rights from the council. There were no takers." [ForeignPolicy

-- Keith Michael Harper, former U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council, tweets"US disengagement from @UN_HRC is a mistake plain and simple. There is an undeniable anti-Israel bias but the US best addresses that with engagement not retreat. After all, think of who we are surrendering to - Russia, China and Cuba."

"Email snafu reveals White House outreach to Obama and Clinton alumni" by Annie Karni: "The White House has been blasting out its talking points to an uncharacteristically inclusive list of foreign policy heavyweights — including former Obama administration officials, advisers to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and critics... A few have also been invited to off-the-record “expert” calls with senior administration officials, and participated out of curiosity, but wondered how they had been invited — and why." [Politico]

NEW BOOK -- "How Trump’s Election Shook Obama: ‘What if We Were Wrong?’" by Peter Baker: "In the weeks after Mr. Trump’s election, Obama went through multiple emotional stages, according to a new book by his longtime adviser Benjamin J. Rhodes. At times, the departing president took the long view, at other points, he flashed anger... Mr. Obama and his team were confident that Mrs. Clinton would win and, like much of the country, were shocked when she did not. “I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should have seen it coming,” Mr. Rhodes writes... The next day, Mr. Obama focused on cheering up his despondent staff. At one point, he sent a message to Mr. Rhodes saying, “There are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the earth.” [NYTimes]

TRUMP VS. IGER -- "Trump rips Disney CEO Bob Iger for defending Obama aide Jarrett after Roseanne Barr's racist tweet" by Jacob Pramuk: "President Donald Trump criticized Disney CEO Bob Iger on Wednesday for apologizing for Roseanne Barr's racist tweet that led to the cancellation of her hit ABC show, but failing to show remorse about statements made about the president on the network. In a tweet, Trump acknowledged that Iger apologized to Valerie Jarrett... Trump did not address the substance of what Barr tweeted or the cancellation of "Roseanne." Instead, he noted that Iger "never called President Donald J. Trump to apologize for the HORRIBLE statements made and said about me on ABC."" [CNBC]

Trump tweets this morning: "Iger, where is my call of apology? You and ABC have offended millions of people, and they demand a response. How is Brian Ross doing? He tanked the market with an ABC lie, yet no apology. Double Standard!" 

-- CNN's Brian Stelter: "So what did Disney do? What did Iger do? Nothing. Iger just ignored Trump's jab. Disney PR did not respond to requests for comment. I think this is quite a savvy PR strategy..." [ReliableSources]

"Roseanne Barr, Back on Twitter, Has More to Say" by Jaclyn Peiser: "In response to several people on Twitter, Ms. Barr claimed she did not know Ms. Jarrett was African-American. “I thought she was Saudi,” she said to one supporter. To others, she tweeted that she believed Ms. Jarrett was “Jewish and Persian.” [NYTimes

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Roman Abramovich withdraws UK visa request [JPost]  Bill Gross, Revered Fund Manager, Is Having a Year to Forget [NYTimes]  What Makes $1 Billion a Year and Oils the Global Economy While Rebuilding Its Reputation? Trafigura, the commodities trader [Bloomberg]  Oath hires NFL vet Natalie Ravitz as comms chief as it preps OTT video [TechCrunch] Indigo CEO Heather Reisman says the company won’t be ‘another retailer selling books’ when it expands to the U.S. [Bloomberg]  Mark Levine, a New York City councilman, has urged the city to set aside on-street parking for car-sharing companies like Zipcar [NYT]

"An Israeli-Palestinian Harvard graduate quit his job to travel the world — and is now one of the most successful creators on Facebook" by Rosie Perper: "Growing up in Arraba, a small agricultural city in northern Israel, [Nuseir] Yassin, an Israeli-Palestinian, came from a modest middle-class family... In 2016, he quit his job, bought a camera, a plane ticket, and committed himself to traveling the world full-time... Yassin adopted the moniker "Nas"- Arabic for "people" - and setup a Facebook page called Nas Daily, where he committed to documenting every day of his travels... As of this writing, he has over 6.3 million Facebook followers..." [BusinessInsider]

TALE OF TWO CITIES: “Israelis Have A Love-Hate Relationship With Jerusalem” by Daniel Estrin: "I always said I was born in Jerusalem, I'll die in Jerusalem and I'll be buried in Jerusalem. This was the thing I used to say always. And I don't see myself now going back," says Daphna Eilon, 64, lighting a cigarette in her new apartment in the coastal city of Tel Aviv Her son, and more than a dozen of his childhood friends, have moved an hour's drive away from Jerusalem to the Tel Aviv area When it comes to religion, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are opposites. Today only 20 percent of Israelis in Jerusalem identify as nonreligious. In Tel Aviv, 67 percent of residents do..."

"On the bottom floor of the Jerusalem apartment building, Shaike El Ami hums a Sabbath tune and prepares a large Sabbath dinner. He moved into the apartment in the past year with his family "They all dream of Jerusalem. I have the ability to be a part of Jerusalem, building a community of Jerusalem," says El Ami. "Not just a dream. I have a mission." [NPR

"I Talked to Zionists—Then I Was Disinvited by a Major Muslim Group" by Wajahat Ali: "On Tuesday, I was disinvited from the 55th annual conference of the Islamic Society of North America, which proclaims itself one of the leading American Muslim organizations. My crimes? Talking to Zionists, writing an article about it, and thanking God for a bowel movement... The proximate trigger for the letter appears to have been my story in The Atlantic’s June issue, “A Muslim Among the Settlers.” But it marks the culmination of a years-long campaign by some online activists and religious leaders to limit the range of voices at such events. The controversy stems from my involvement with the Shalom Hartman Institute and its Muslim Leadership Initiative—a program that promotes engagement between American Muslims and Jewish scholars, both in Israel and in New York City." [TheAtlantic]

"Serving Food, Fighting Hunger, Restoring Dignity – Masbia" by Zainab Iqbal: "Age and race have no boundaries when it comes to the Masbia Soup Kitchen, a kosher pantry and soup kitchen located in a diverse neighborhood in a hungry city... Every Thursday, about 500 people come by the pantry and get a brown bag filled with grains, fruits, vegetables, and proteins, enough to last their families three days. “We are a kosher program but we attract beyond the kosher community,” says Alexander Rapaport, the executive director of Masbia. “Everyone wants food. Every religion, every race. Everyone’s represented.” ... . From Sunday to Thursday in the evenings the place feels like a restaurant." [Bklyner]

BIRTHWEEK: Challah baker, Manager of San Francisco's Howard Properties,  and member of the Board of Trustees at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Jason Friend

BIRTHDAYS: United States Postmaster General (1988-1992) under Presidents Reagan and Bush 41, he was a bank executive both before and after his federal service, Anthony M. Frank turns 87... Investment advisor representative working at Morgan Stanley in Los Angeles, Alfred Phillip Stern turns 85... Billionaire owner of one of the nation's largest privately held industrial empires, Ira Leon Rennert turns 84... Food critic at Vogue magazine since 1989 and judge on Iron Chef America, he is the author of the 1996 award-winning book "The Man Who Ate Everything," Jeffrey Steingarten turns 76... Founder and retired CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council (1985-2009), Alvin "Al" From turns 75... Author, political pundit, commentator for Fox News and a correspondent for HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Bernard Richard "Bernie" Goldberg turns 73... Comedienne, actress and TV producer, Susie Essman turns 63... Canadian billionaire, founder and chairman of the Katz Group of Companies with operations in the pharmacy, sports (including the Edmonton Oilers), entertainment and real estate sectors, Daryl Katz turns 57... Reality television personality, best known for starring in and producing her own matchmaking reality series, The Millionaire Matchmaker on Bravo TV, Patti Stanger turns 57... 

Jerusalem-born inventor, serial entrepreneur and novelist; founder, chairman and CEO of CyberArk Software, Alon Nisim Cohen turns 50... Toronto-born investor and entrepreneur, best known as the co-founder of CryptoLogic, an online casino software firm, and FUN Technologies (sold to Liberty Media in 2007 for $500 million), Andrew Rivkin turns 49... Democratic mayor of Annapolis, Maryland (2009-2013) after having served as a member of the Anne Arundel County Council (2006-2009), Joshua Jackson "Josh" Cohen turns 45... Assistant Director of Community Outreach at the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, Melissa York turns 42... Attorney and NYT-bestselling author of the Mara Dyer Trilogy, Michelle Hodkin turns 36... Head of corporate and regulatory affairs at Zoox, a self-driving car start-up based in Silicon Valley, Bert Eli Kaufman turns 36 (and married as of five days ago)... Senior Program Manager at Zume Inc., Zoe Goldfarb... Stephanie Oreck Weiss turns 34... Director of business development at Politico, Brad E. Bosserman turns 33... Rabbi in residence at GatherDC, ordained in 2013 at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Aaron Potek turns 32... NYC-based deputy editor for BuzzFeed News, Matt Berman turns 29 (h/t Playbook)... Assignment manager, coordinating producer and correspondent for i24News, she was previously a producer for ABC, Amital Isaac turns 29... Brad Goldstein...