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TOP TALKER -- "Influential outsiders have played a key role in Scott Pruitt’s foreign travel" by Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis: "Scott Pruitt’s itinerary for a February trip to Israel was remarkable by any standard for an Environmental Protection Agency administrator: A stop at a controversial Jewish settlement in the West Bank. An appearance at Tel Aviv University. A hard-to-get audience with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. One force behind Pruitt’s eclectic agenda: casino magnate and Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson... Pruitt was scheduled to unveil an agreement with Water-Gen, an Israeli water purification company championed by Adelson... The EPA signed an agreement with the company in January; Pruitt had hoped to announce it while he was in Israel."
"On Thursday, Adelson’s top political adviser, Andy Abboud, confirmed his involvement in planning Pruitt’s Israel agenda, but played down its significance, saying, “Many people consult” Adelson before making the journey. “In some cases, we will make an introduction to various officials traveling to Israel and Israeli staff officials,” Abboud said. Of the planned Pruitt trip, he said: “It was very perfunctory, and I would describe them as simple introductions.”" [WashPost]
"Abbas Apologizes to 'Jewish People' for Offensive Comments, Condemning Holocaust and anti-Semitism? by Jack Khoury: "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas apologized Friday for comments he made last week which were widely decried as anti-Semitic. "If people were offended by my statement, especially people of the Jewish faith, I apologize to them. I would like to assure everyone that it was not my intention to do so, and to reiterate my full respect for the Jewish faith, as well as other monotheistic faiths. I would also like to reiterate our long held condemnation of the Holocaust, as the most heinous crime in history, and express our sympathy with its victims," he said." [Haaretz; Reuters] PLO convention affirms Abbas, 83, as unchallenged leader [AP]
Israeli defense minister rejects Abbas apology over remarks on Jews: "Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday rejected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ apology for his remarks on Jews. Lieberman wrote on Twitter: “Abu Mazen is a wretched Holocaust denier, who wrote a doctorate of Holocaust denial and later also published a book on Holocaust denial. That is how he should be treated. His apologies are not accepted.” [Reuters]
'ULTIMATE DEAL' -- THE VINEGAR: "Trump to tell Israel: Withdraw from four east Jerusalem neighborhoods" by Yanir Cozin: "The Trump administration will ask Israel to withdraw from four Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, which will likely become the capital of a future Palestinian state, US officials told Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman during his visit to Washington last week. The transfer of control over the neighborhoods – Jebl Mukabar, Isawiya, Shuafat and Abu Dis – was presented to Liberman as just one piece of the larger peace plan the administration has been working on over the last year."
THE HONEY: "Alongside the concessions expected of Israel, the administration has promised its full support in the event of a widespread conflict with Iran or Syria. The administration has told Israel it would supply the IDF with significant support, including advanced weaponry, if a war broke out with Iran, even one instigated by Israeli action against Iran’s presence in Syria." [JPost]
TRANSITION -- Grant Rumley, a research fellow at Foundation For Defense of Democracies and co-author of The Last Palestinian: The Rise and Reign of Mahmoud Abbas, has joined the Pentagon as Country Director for Israel at the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy.
"Pompeo faces a hiring obstacle course" by Nahal Toosi: "If Pompeo were to try to bring on GOP critics of Trump, he “needs to argue to the president that some people are terrible ‘Never Trumpers’ but others just supported other candidates so they naturally attacked him just as he very strongly attacked his opponent,” a Republican former government official said. “The key difference is probably what people have said since he got elected: If they have stayed critical, the hell with them. If they have been supportive for a year and a half, they should be forgiven, because Pompeo needs some of them to take control of State back from the awful, horrible State bureaucracy.”
"Many members of that bureaucracy are especially keen to see Pompeo oust one member of Tillerson’s inner circle who remains at State: Brian Hook, the director of the secretary’s Policy Planning Staff. Hook, whose current position doesn’t require Senate confirmation, is leading talks with European allies on the future of the Iran nuclear deal. He also was among the State officials who traveled overseas with Pompeo this past weekend. Hook’s future remains uncertain." [Politico]
Vice President Mike Pence in an interview with CBN News: "When we open the American Embassy in Jerusalem, we will in a very real sense end this historic friction, we'll embrace reality. And President Trump and I believe that in doing that, that peace in the region becomes more possible." [CBN]
Yossi Klein Halevi writes... "How Israelis See the World: The moral dissonance between Israel and the international community only strengthens the Israeli hard right, which argues, in the words of an old Israeli song, that “the whole world is against us.” ... When critics trivialize a threat to Israel’s border as “peaceful demonstrations,” Israelis conclude that world opinion is either obtuse or hostile. The result is a dismissal of any criticism. By contrast, when Israelis sense a willingness in the international community to consider their concerns, they tend to respond with greater openness to the moral critiques of outsiders." [NYTimes]
IRAN DEAL: "Top Trump Ally Predicts Iran Deal Will Hold Up, for Now" by Asawin Suebsaeng and Andrew Desiderio: "Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus and one of the lawmakers with whom Trump speaks with most regularly, told The Daily Beast that the president would likely decline to back out entirely when a deadline to certify Iran’s compliance comes next week... “If I had to handicap it, I would believe there’d be a short-term extension as we look to re-negotiate an agreement... Knowing that the deadlines on some of this correspond to key discussions on trade with China and denuclearization talks with North Korea, I can see a deferral more than an outright withdrawal being a tactic that is used right now,” Meadows added." [DailyBeast]
"Israeli satellite firm reports ‘unusual’ activity at Iran nuclear site" by Judah Ari Gross: "An Israeli satellite imaging company on Thursday released images showing what it described as “unusual” movement around the Iranian Fordo nuclear facility... The photographs, which show large numbers of vehicles at the entrance to the facility and other signs of increased activity there, do not in themselves indicate any violation of the nuclear accord." [ToI]
"Iran nuclear deal: Is its economy better off?" by Amir Paivar: "The International Monetary Fund reported that the real GDP of Iran grew 12.5% in the first year following the implementation of the deal... Growth has fallen since then, and the IMF estimates the economy will grow at 4% this year, which is healthy but below the 8% target Iran had for the five years following the deal... Most of the post-nuclear deal boom came from increased oil revenues that go directly into the government coffers and that takes time to trickle down into people's pockets." [BBC]
"More Iranians With British Links Held in Iran" by Thomas Erdbrink and Rick Gladstone: "Speculation has grown in recent months that freedom for the Iranians with British connections may be tied to a longstanding legal dispute between Britain and Iran over Iran’s 1976 purchase of British tanks that were never delivered... A similar financial dispute over an old arms deal between Iran and the United States appeared to play a role in the 2016 release of Americans held by the Iranians, with the delivery of $400 million to Iran on the same day the nuclear deal took effect." [NYTimes]
BOLTON TIME? -- Retired Col. Jack Jacobs writes... "John Kelly's 'idiot' comments suggest an imminent exit, clearing the way for John Bolton's rise: If Bolton plays his cards right he could very well be one of the most powerful men in Washington by the end of the year — if not sooner — due to his proximity to the president... Trump has been described as a person who tends to be most influenced by the last person to speak with him, making access paramount. And so in this scenario, it would be Bolton calling the shots." [NBCNews]
"Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller has been in touch with Trump's new national security adviser, John Bolton" by Eliza Relman: "Pamela Geller, a well-known anti-Islam activist, says she has had "positive" interactions in recent years with John Bolton, President Donald Trump's new national security adviser... In an email to Business Insider, Geller [said] that she is "very happy" Bolton, who she called "an extraordinarily intelligent man," was selected for the top administration post. "John Bolton knows what he is doing," she said... But it's unclear how much the two have been in touch in recent years. Geller would only say that all of her recent interactions with Bolton have been "cordial" and "positive."" [BusinessInsider]
IN THE SPOTLIGHT... "NBC News corrects explosive story on Michael Cohen" by Oliver Darcy: "NBC News on Thursday afternoon corrected an explosive story it had reported earlier in the day that said federal authorities had wiretapped Michael Cohen... The correction was announced on MSNBC during "Meet the Press Daily" by the story's lead reporter, Tom Winter. He said US officials had told him that it "was not a wiretap" but instead a "pen register." ... Winter explained that a pen register meant authorities were "not able to listen in in real-time or record his conversations."" [CNNMoney]
Comey blasts Giuliani for comparing FBI agents to 'stormtroopers'" by Cristiano Lima: "Former FBI Director James Comey on Thursday rebuked Rudy Giuliani... for referring to bureau officials as “stormtroopers.” ... The remark appeared to reference a paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party — known as the Sturmabteilung... “I know the New York FBI. There are no ‘stormtroopers’ there; just a group of people devoted to the rule of law and the truth,” Comey tweeted. “Our country would be better off if our leaders tried to be like them, rather than comparing them to Nazis.” [Politico]
"Alan Dershowitz Hired as Harvey Weinstein Consultant" by Eriq Gardner: "Alan Dershowitz may not want to jump aboard Donald Trump's legal team, but apparently, he has no qualms with advising Harvey Weinstein's legal team. On Thursday, Weinstein continued his bid in Delaware Bankruptcy Court to obtain personal and business records kept by The Weinstein Co... "I have been retained to consult with Benjamin Brafman, Esquire who is representing Harvey Weinstein," Dershowitz states in a declaration. "I have agreed to consult on the specific issue of Mr. Brafman’s access to his client’s personal and business emails... in order to prepare his constitutionally-mandated role as counsel to Mr. Weinstein."" [HollywoodReporter]
SCENE YESTERDAY -- Approximately 200 guests from faith-based communities attended the National Day of Prayer hosted by President Trump at the White House Rose Garden. Attendees included Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who delivered a special prayer, OU's Nathan Diament, Agudath Israel's Abba Cohen, and Ezra Friedlander [CSPAN] Before the event, Rabbi Shemtov was seen chatting with Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz [Pic]
HAPPENING ON SUNDAY -- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will address the ADL National Leadership Summit at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C.
2018 WATCH -- "Anti-Semites on the ballot: GOP 'condemns' three contenders with racist views" by Caitlin Dickson: "Three Republican candidates in this year’s midterms have been disavowed by the Republican National Committee for their racist and anti-Semitic views — including one who, according to a local television news poll, is leading among Republicans in the primary for California’s Senate election. “While they have no chance of winning, we nonetheless condemn these candidates and their hateful, racist views in the strongest possible terms,” an RNC official said in a statement... “There’s no place for them in the Republican Party.”" [YahooNews]
The race for Georgia Governor: "Tippins Puts SEAL, Business Skills Before Politics" by Sarah Moosazadeh: "Former Navy SEAL Clay Tippins has no political experience, but the business executive and consultant still won a Republican Jewish Coalition straw poll in March as the first choice of 42 percent of the people who attended a candidate forum... While Tippins was deployed to the Middle East, he saw firsthand the threats to Israel. “Israel is never going to find a better partner than Clay Tippins, whether that is as a warrior, a governor or as a citizen,” he said... Tippins said he will build on the business relationships Gov. Nathan Deal cultivated during a trade mission to Israel in 2014." [AtlantaJewishTimes] Stacey Abrams Vs. Stacey Evans: Inside GA's Governor's Race [NYMag]
"Missouri lawmakers agree to call special session to consider Greitens’ impeachment" by Allison Kite, Jason Hancock And Bryan Lowry: "According to the petition signed by 138 House members and 29 senators — both more than the three-fourths required in each chamber to call a special session — lawmakers will consider the findings and recommendations of a House committee investigating Greitens, “including, but not limited to disciplinary actions against Gov. Eric R. Greitens.” The special session would begin at 6:30 p.m. on May 18, immediately after the legislature adjourns its regular session for the year." [KansasCItyStar; WSJ]
2020 WATCH -- Former Senator Joe Lieberman indicates he would sooner support Bernie Sanders over Elizabeth Warren in 2020 on Tablet Magazine’s Unorthodox podcast, hosted by Mark Oppenheimer, Stephanie Butnick, and Liel Leibovitz -- If it's Elizabeth Warren, whom you've been very critical of, versus Donald Trump. Do you stick with the Democrats? Lieberman: “I don't know, tough call. I mean that would be my instinct, but she would make it hard. I don't know really know her. Interestingly enough, I know Bernie Sanders because I served with him.” Would you vote Bernie over Trump? Lieberman: “It depends where we are. That would be an easier call for me as a Democrat interestingly enough. Bernie is a genuine article.” [TabletMag]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Israel is One of the Three Countries Alibaba is Considering for Expansion, Says Jack Ma [CTech] Isadore Sharp's Four Seasons luxury hotel in Vancouver to close amid complaints of ‘tired, dated’ appearance [GlobeAndMail] Steve Cohen's Point72 hedge fund makes slight gains in 2018 [BusinessInsider] Former Millennium Trader Dodson to Start New Oil Hedge Fund [Bloomberg] Jeff Sutton, the Cayre family and others will not attend this years International Conference of Shopping Center’s because it conflicts with Shavuot [TheRealDeal]
PROFILE: "Isaac Hager’s higher power: The developer is gaining outer borough market share, despite a trail of foreclosures and lawsuits from his early real estate days" by Mark Maurer and Eddie Small: "A couple months ago, one of Brooklyn’s most active and under-the-radar developers, Isaac Hager, crossed into Queens to buy a 50,000-square-foot Long Island City warehouse for just shy of $20 million. But while reviewing the deal’s terms, Hager uncovered a problem: He could not take advantage of the property’s total floor-area ratio. The discovery could have scored him at least $1 million off the price... But when it came time to close, Hager opted not to push for a lower price. “It’s a chillul Hashem,” Hager told Junik, using Hebrew to call it a desecration of God’s name. “Why look bad?” Hager — whose Hasidic Jewish faith is said to be sometimes at odds with his aggressive dealmaking style — reasoned that it was important to stick to his word. And that philosophy seems to be working well for him." [TheRealDealMag]
"Theranos Cost Business and Government Leaders More Than $600 Million" by John Carreyrou: "In an April 10 email to shareholders... Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes raised the likelihood that the company would be liquidated by August... Other Theranos investors facing big losses include... members of South Africa’s Oppenheimer family, which controlled the diamond company De Beers until it was sold to Anglo American PLC in 2011... The Oppenheimers invested... $20 million... New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft invested about $1 million." [WSJ]
Glencore, a hard-slugging mining giant, meets its match in Congo: "The clash between [Ivan] Glasenberg and [Dan] Gertler, two former business partners, dates back to December, when the American government slapped sanctions on Mr Gertler, accusing him of amassing hundreds of millions of dollars through “opaque and corrupt” mining deals in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which he denies... Mr Glasenberg may be partially reaping what he sowed, analysts say. His firm long did business with Mr Gertler, despite reports about the latter’s relationship with [Joseph] Kabila... Glencore may survive the slugfest. Some analysts say it may be encouraged to make a big tax prepayment to Gécamines to preserve its assets... Others say it may attempt to convince America’s Treasury to relax sanctions against Mr Gertler... But that is unlikely." [Economist]
"The Battle for Sumner Redstone’s Affection—and Fortune—Gets Even Weirder" by William Cohan: "Shari Redstone’s current crusade to put together what her father intentionally tore asunder is just the latest chapter of a very long—Sumner is currently 94—and very ugly quasi-Shakespearean epic. There are so many versions of the “truth” swirling around the family, the lawyers who worked for them, Sumner’s various girlfriends, paramours, nurses, and other employees, that it is nearly impossible to figure out what really transpired and why. There are a number of ongoing lawsuits, so the courts will be in charge of determining the truth—and who, therefore, should pay whom." [VanityFair]
"Dead Sea Scrolls discovery: Tech reveals hidden script" by James Rogers: "The technology, which was originally developed for NASA, has identified new letters and words, giving experts fresh insight into the historic texts. One of the fragments may even indicate the existence of a previously unknown manuscript, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is conducting the research... Fragments have also been found from The Temple Scroll, the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which provides directions for conducting Temple services, and the Great Psalms Scroll." [FoxNews]
Israeli diplomat in US booted from Uber for speaking Hebrew: "An Israeli diplomat in Chicago said he was thrown out of an Uber on Thursday night when the driver heard him speaking Hebrew. Itay Milner, Israel’s deputy consul general in Chicago, posted on Facebook that it was one of the worst experiences of his life. “I was just thrown out of an Uber in the middle of the highway only because I answered my phone in my mother tongue,” he posted." [ToI]
Roger Cohen writes... "Israel Banishes a Columbia Law Professor for Thinking Differently: "Katherine Franke, who is a Columbia Law School professor and was co-heading a delegation of American civil rights leaders when she was detained last Sunday, interrogated, accused of lying, and, upon expulsion, told she could never return... Franke told me the reaction from Columbia had been “disappointing.” Although she informed the law school dean and the provost of her detention, no one asked whether she got out the country safely, and no statement was issued from the university. The law school dean’s chief of staff informed her, she told me, that “because there are pro-Israeli centers at the law school” the school “would not get involved in defending” her." [NYTimes]
"There’s More to Being Jewish Than Fighting Anti-Semitism" by Emma Green: "[Jonathan] Weisman’s book never overcomes this foundational flaw: It is based on the wildly inaccurate claim that American Jews are not talking about, thinking about, and calling out anti-Semitism... Weisman does not excavate enough Zionist history to recognize the uncanny parallel between his fears and those of Jewish thinkers past, but this ripple of anxiety through the generations is one of the reasons why this moment in America politics is so powerful. Like the Jews of today, many of Europe’s early 20th-century Jews were highly secular and assimilated, and this may have made them slower to address the deadly threat of rising bigotry in their time. Anti-Semitism provides a framework for thinking about other problems of extremism and xenophobia, as well." [TheAtlantic]
SPORTS BLINK -- May 4th sees the start of cycling's Giro D'Italia, with the opening stage held in Jerusalem. This is the biggest sporting event in the history of Israel. [CNN; BBC]
WINE OF THE WEEK -- Five Stones Virtuous -- by Yitz Applbaum: "Before Passover I suggested some wonderful wines to enhance your Seder. At our own Seder, we drank all the wines suggested plus a few more. One of the new wines was the “Five Stones Virtuous.”
"The Five Stones Virtuous wine is a masterpiece. The Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot grapes are separately aged for 15 months in new French oak, and then blended together and re-aged for 18 more months. This wine requires an immense amount of focus because you can simultaneously taste the individual grape varietals, and the overall blend all at the same time. At first, one is bombarded with deep, passionate, middle-mouth dark chocolate covered blueberry flavors. Then, just as you are about to regain your composure, the finish overwhelms you with elegant, deep-toasted wood and cherry overtones. Ideally, one drinks this wine with the leftover lamb from the Passover sacrifice. If that is not available, then a regular leg of lamb will suffice." [WinesIsrael]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS -- FRIDAY: Former chairman and CEO of American International Group, now chairman and CEO of the Starr Companies, Maurice Raymond "Hank" Greenberg turns 93... Best-selling Israeli author, Amos Oz (born Amos Klausner) turns 79... Former member of the New York State Assembly (1983-2010), now a Senior Fellow at the Graduate School of Public Service at NYU, Richard L. Brodsky turns 72... Congregational rabbi (1974-1977), then executive director of the Texas A&M Hillel (1983-2013), now a consultant for the tourism industry, Peter E. Tarlow turns 72... US Special Envoy for Climate Change in the Obama administration, chief negotiator at the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, Todd Stern turns 67... EVP and Global General Counsel of the Las Vegas Sands since 2016, previously Group General Counsel and Senior EVP of News Corporation (1996-2011), Lawrence "Lon" A. Jacobs turns 63... Baltimore-born triathlete, she earned a Ph.D. in 2001 from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and is a winner of international ironman competitions, Joanna Sue Zeiger turns 48... Executive Director of Surprise Lake Camp and Director of Youth Engagement for the Union for Reform Judaism, Bradley Solmsen turns 48... State Attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida since 2013, he was the youngest member of the Florida Senate when he was elected in 2002, Dave Aronberg turns 47... Former member of the New York City Council (2006-2017), Daniel Garodnick turns 46... Former Secretary of State of Missouri (2013-2017), he ran for the US Senate in 2016, Jason Kander turns 37... MPA candidate at UC Berkeley's Goldman School, Allison Bormel Ament turns 31... Speechwriter for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Shana Mansbach turns 26... 2017 graduate of the MFA program at American University, Steven A. Rosenberg turns 29... Mechal Wakslak...
SATURDAY: Talk radio show host, a 2014 inductee into the National Radio Hall of Fame, Barry Farber turns 88... Writer of the "Letter from America" column for The International Herald Tribune, previously a foreign correspondent and a book critic at The New York Times, Richard Bernstein turns 74... Best-selling author of 19 novels featuring fictional Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper, Linda Fairstein turns 71... Retired judge on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals (2000-2017, the last 11 years as Chief Judge), he was previously president of the Jewish Community Council of Washington, Peter B. Krauser turns 71... Member of the Knesset, almost continuously since 1988, for the Haredi parties of Degel HaTorah and United Torah Judaism, Moshe Gafni turns 66... Member of the Knesset (1996-2018) for the Shas party, he now serves as Minister of Religious Services, David Azulai turns 64... South African-born President of American Jewish World Service, Robert Bank turns 59... Executive Director for North America of the Avi Chai Foundation since 1994, Yossi Prager turns 53... Television writer and producer, known for The Simpsons, Josh Weinstein turns 52... Television news correspondent, Lara Berman turns 38... Former Israeli national soccer team captain, Yossi Benayoun turns 38... Principal at New Enterprise Associates and a member of the inaugural class of the Schwarzman Scholars program, Andrew Adams Schoen turns 28...
SUNDAY: Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford U, Abraham David Sofaer turns 80... Media executive and philanthropist, he was a long-time executive of Time Inc. (later Time Warner) who negotiated the merger between AOL and Time Warner in 2000, Gerald M. "Jerry" Levin turns 79... Born in Buenos Aires, later emigrated to Chile and then the US, novelist, playwright, essayist, academic and human rights activist, professor of Latin American studies at Duke University, Vladimiro Ariel Dorfman turns 76... Professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago, Martha Nussbaum turns 71... Former Deputy Attorney General of the US (1994-1997), Jamie S. Gorelick turns 68... French-born president of the Jerusalem College of Technology (2009-2013), Noah Dana-Picard turns 64... Ruderman Professor of Jewish Studies at Northeastern University, Lori Hope Lefkovitz turns 62... President and CEO of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life (since 2013), previously Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents (2007-2011) and a US Congressman (1993-1995), Eric David Fingerhut turns 59... Attorney and partner in LA-based real estate development firm, Regent Properties, Daniel Gryczman turns 43... Los Angeles-based television personality, actress, writer and video blogger, Shira Lazar turns 35...