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SCENE LAST NIGHT -- LA Edition: Cheryl and Haim Saban opened up their Beverly Park estate for an evening event to introduce their friends to the Israel Policy Forum and its partnership with Commanders for Israel's Security (CIS). The two organizations advocate for a two-state solution that is 'consistent with Israel's security needs.' In introducing the evening's program, Haim Saban joked that typically he hosts events at his home that cost between $5-25k to attend in support of a variety of causes but that 'this one is free so everyone should make sure to really enjoy the food.' On a more serious note, Saban explained "all of us here tonight -- whether left, right, center, meshugeners, non-meshugeners -- care about Israel. While there are some who say there's no such thing as 'Palestinians' -- call them whatever you would like but the facts are it's pretty much equal (populations) between the Jordan river and the sea. We have to find a way to keep Israel both Jewish and democratic."
In describing CIS, Nimrod Novik noted how rare it is for even one Israeli general to follow another one but "when 270 retired generals, who make up approximately 80%, unite around one organization, led by one general, that's focused on one issue -- the two state solution -- it's worth paying attention."
Rabbi David Wolpe summed up the evening's overall discussion for us by quoting the author Flann O'Brien -- "It is a great thing to do what is necessary before it becomes unavoidable"
ALSO SPOTTED: Israeli-American entrepreneur Avi Arad, Executive Producer of Homeland Alex Gansa, Former LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Barbara Yaroslavsky, Tribe Media's David Suissa, Tikkun Olam Journeys' Tova Suissa, IPF's Executive Director David Halperin, Gen. (ret.) Amnon Reshef, IAC's Shawn Evenhaim, RAND Corporation's Shira Efron, Saban Family Foundation's Amitai Raziel, film producer Mike Medavoy, Head of TV at WME Rick Rosen, Charles Perez, Ada Horwich, Don Feder, Shifra Efron.
DRIVING THE CONVERSATION -- Trump’s Israel trip -- White House aides, speaking on background yesterday, did not offer any specific details about Trump’s upcoming trip to Israel, after he first visits Saudi Arabia. Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, according to a senior administration official, will focus on trying to reach an understanding with Arab leaders on joint “long-term” goals to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East. In Israel, Trump will “reinforce the strong alliance that we have with the Israeli people, and then we are going to talk a little bit about the peace process with the Palestinians and how we plan to go forward We will approach it with a lot of humility. The President is very involved in [discussing] a lot of ideas.” [JewishInsider]
Initial itinerary “A senior Israeli official said Trump was due to land in Israel on May 22 at 11 A.M. He will be received at an official ceremony at Ben-Gurion International Airport by President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Trump will then proceed to Jerusalem for a series of meetings with Rivlin and Netanyahu The Foreign Ministry and the Shin Bet security service are preparing for the possibility that the U.S. president will visit the Western Wall and Masada. It is still not clear whether Trump will give a speech during his visit. On May 23, Trump will visit Bethlehem, meet Abbas and apparently will also visit the Church of the Nativity. From there, he will head back to Ben-Gurion airport, taking off at about 1 P.M.” [Haaretz]
We're Hearing... Sheldon Adelson will likely be in Israel during Trump's visit. For the folks who can, might be time to book your Air Adelson tickets...
"Why Does Trump Want to Address Israel at Masada?" by Sigal Samuel: "Six years ago, he inquired about whether he could hold the Miss Universe Pageant at Masada, according to Eran Sidis, the spokesman for the Knesset Speaker... Trump also loves an underdog... Now he’s about to embark on a high-profile mission to solve what may be the world’s most notoriously unsolvable conflict... In this scenario, too, he is an underdog... But he’s a confident underdog, one who believes he can and will make a historic deal. So why not throw some spectacle into the mix? Masada has been a centerpiece of the Zionist national myth for decades." [TheAtlantic]
“Trump's selective world tour” by Frida Ghitis: “The stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia will please his base at home and will strengthen his hand as he seeks to score a historic victory he says we wants, helping to broker a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. The very fact that Trump will visit Israel on his first trip carries symbolic value. Israelis and many of the Jewish State's supporters in the US had trouble forgiving Obama for failing to visit the country during his first term. Obama came within short distances of Israel, visiting nearby Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the first months of his administration, but pointedly did not go to Israel.” [CNN]
"Trump Joins Saudi Arabia, Arab Leaders for Potential Anti-Iran Alliance" by Kimberly Dozier: "The trip indicates that Trump is re-aligning the White House with Saudi Arabia’s and Israel’s anti-Iran position, while the Obama administration had sought to stay more neutral in order to deliver the Iranian nuclear deal. It’s also a signal that Trump is returning to the Bush-era reliance on Sunni Arab strongmen to quell a roiling Middle East, and it’s an in-your-face rejection of critics who called him anti-Islamic." [DailyBeast] Angry at Criticism by Saudi Prince, Iran Accuses Him of ‘Unveiled Threat’ [NYTimes]
"Trump goes soft on Saudi" by Michael Crowley: "Trump’s Israel visit promises to be more reflective of establishment thinking than of his past rhetoric. He is not expected, for instance, to press his campaign vow to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem... “He’s approached this like a stunningly conventional president,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a former chief of staff to the special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Obama’s State Department. “That’s been a pleasant surprise.” Some Netanyahu supporters in Washington and Israel, skeptical that an acceptable peace deal with the Palestinians is feasible, find Trump overly eager to break the historic impasse... Hard-liners close to Netanyahu are especially anxious about reports that Trump is taking advice on Israel from an old friend, New York businessman Ronald Lauder, who has played a behind-the-scenes role in past peace talks, has ties to Palestinian officials, and who believes Trump can broker a deal." [Politico; NYTimes]
KAFE KNESSET -- Lauder lore -- by Tal Shalev and JPost's Lahav Harkov: In the past two weeks, since Jewish Insider first revealed Ronald Lauder as a top White House whisperer, Israeli officials and politicians have been whispering about him as well. In addition to a public meeting with Egyptian President Sisi, Kafe Knesset has learned that Lauder met with Abbas twice in the past month, a few weeks ago in a European capital and earlier this week in DC, a day before Abbas' White House meeting this week. "Lauder has emerged as a significant unofficial envoy to the President, and is increasing his involvement with the Israeli Palestinian issue, and he is convinced he can help the President secure a deal," one well informed source told Kafe Knesset. "He thinks peace is possible and is embracing the Palestinians who feel they have found their man and he believes he can bring them to the table," he added. Another well informed source said that during the Trump-Abbas meeting this Wednesday, the President praised Lauder, adding that "Lauder is determined to move forward, and is convinced that the Palestinians want a deal." Read today's entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
HAPPENING ON SUNDAY -- The Jerusalem Post will be holding its 6th annual conference at the Marriott Marquis in NY. Speakers include top Israeli ministers, Israel’s Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog, White House aide Sebastian Gorka, Senators Tom Cotton and Deb Fischer; Congresswoman Grace Meng, Ambassador Danny Danon, Ron Lauder, and Alan Dershowitz, among others. Larry King will receive the Jerusalem Post Lifetime Achievement Award and talk about his career and Jewish identity.
ON THE HILL -- Reaction to Trump's upcoming trip to Israel -- by Aaron Magid: “I guess when he can’t get any of his domestic programs done, it’s good to go overseas. Certainly, we have heard nothing about infrastructure,” Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ) told Jewish Insider. “For somebody who during the campaign who was almost solely focused on Making America Great Again and bringing jobs home, he seems to be spending a lot of time focused abroad and not dealing with infrastructure which is jobs."
Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) added, “I’m glad that he would pick those countries and any positive outreach that he does. I’m very skeptical. He doesn’t have a good comprehension on foreign affairs and doesn’t do his homework.” [JewishInsider]
SCENE LAST NIGHT IN NYC -- Jake Sullivan discussed American foreign policy under Trump, as well as his experience in establishing back channel talks with Iran that led to the nuclear deal, in a conversation with Jordan Hirsch, Visiting Fellow at The Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies at Columbia University, at the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life.
“I am very skeptical that the traditional approach is going to lead to success,” Sullivan said about Trump’s efforts to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. “I am deeply skeptical. It did not work when George Mitchell and Hillary Clinton tried it. It did not work when John Kerry tried it. It did not work when Condoleezza Rice tried it. I do not believe that it is right for success in this administration either. And I think Donald Trump saying that maybe it isn’t as hard as everyone made it out to, I can say from personal experience, I have my grave doubts that he is correct in that statement. I have my doubts about whether Abu Mazen (Abbas), given his current political position, given his history on this, he is not strong enough, in my view, to deliver a yes to a deal. Even a yes to a deal that gave him most of all what he needed.”
Sullivan on the Iran deal going forward: “I believe that job number one today - and I think the Israeli intelligence and military establishment would agree with this - is not to try to enter a renegotiation on the nuclear deal, which I think is on sound footing right now. Iran is in compliance, We can continue to shape their behavior around the nuclear issue. It’s to deal with the broader issue of their activities. And I think that the administration deciding that it is going to increase pressure on that - economic pressure, intelligence pressure, military cooperation with our allies - that is where their focus should be. The notion that they say we are going to open core trade-offs in this deal right now is a way to alienate our partners. As time progresses, If Iran continues to remain a state that is looking to get a nuclear weapon ultimately, we have options down the road to do something about that, not just a military option.”
Thoughts on 2020 and whether he would join another campaign: “I think it’s going to be a big field (in the Democratic primary), and there are a lot of intriguing candidates. In terms of me getting involved, I do not plan on working full time on a campaign again, unless it’s the campaign of a close friend or family member. But, of course, I will be in the fight. I will participate in some way in 2018 and in 2020 and beyond because I think it’s important not to retreat from the field.”
Sullivan’s reading list: “Core international relations texts like Man, the State, and War, Robert Gilpin’s The Political Economy of International Relations, and John Gaddis’s The Cold War: A New History. I am in the middle of a book right now about the ratification of the U.S. constitution and contingent it was and then in terms of the daily stuff, I pretty much follow the same newspapers, foreign policy outlets that everybody does.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I'm a full service celebrator" -- Dan Senor on CBS This Morning when asked if he's celebrating Cinco de Mayo today [Video]
TRUMP TEAM -- "The Voice in His Ear - Jared Kushner's access to power" by Michael Warren: "It's a mistake to believe Kushner controls Trump, like a globalist Svengali... "I think you don't get Kushner trying to influence Trump, you get Trump directing Kushner," says Gingrich. "I don't think anybody drives the Trump system except Trump." As one senior White House official put it, "Trump is the face of Trumpism." That's true. But when Trump turns to the side, more often than not it's Jared's face he sees." [TWS]
"In House Health Vote, Reince Priebus Sees a Much-Needed Reprieve" by Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman: "Mr. Priebus has half-joked that Mr. Kushner has “all the fun” but few of the responsibilities that burden him, according to one longtime Priebus confidant... At the height of the Kushner-Bannon spat last month, Mr. Trump instructed both men to “stop it” or face the boot, and delegated to Mr. Priebus the role of evenhanded mediator. Instead, Mr. Priebus interpreted that as a license to forge an alliance with Mr. Kushner." [NYTimes]
“Omarosa Manigault: I've never shied away from having a good relationship with Louis Farrakhan” by Louis Nelson: “Manigault, the former reality TV star turned White House adviser to President Donald Trump, said Thursday that she has a “good relationship” with the controversial Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, and would “look forward” to a meeting with him... “I would look forward to receiving that invitation and sitting down with him." Farrakhan has been the leader of the Nation of Islam since 1977 Farrakhan himself is “an anti-Semite who routinely accuses Jews of manipulating the U.S. government and controlling the levers of world power,” according to the SPLC.” [Politico]
INBOX: “The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was deeply disturbed by comments earlier today by former reality star and White House staffer Omarosa Manigault “Louis Farrakhan should not be made to feel welcome by anyone in the White House,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “Such an overture would only serve to legitimize his long record of conspiratorial and hateful views toward Jews. We hope that the administration will make it clear that Farrakhan and his anti-Semitic organization will find no supporters in the White House.””
"Gorka: Reports about leaving White House 'very fake news'" by Nikita Vladimirov: "President Trump's deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka went after "very fake news" on Thursday... “I will be in the White House as long as the president wants me there and if he needs me to do something somewhere else, I will do whatever he needs me to do," Gorka said on Fox News Radio's "Kilmeade and Friends."" [TheHill]
"Bernie Sanders just defended Israel on Al Jazeera. Here’s why that’s a big deal" by Ron Kampeas: "Asked by Takruri whether he “respected” BDS as a legitimate nonviolent protest movement, Sanders said, “No, I don’t.” The senator suggested in his reply that the tactic was counterproductive as a means of bringing the sides to peace talks." [JTA; Video]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Cordish seeks to woo Madrid with revised plan for casino project [FT] Developer Martin Selig says it won't take long to fill F5 Networks' void on the waterfront [BizJournals] Kushner Companies sells swanky Brooklyn townhouse for record sum [FoxNews] Billionaire Trump Adviser Says He Feels Misunderstood: Stephen Schwarzman wants to know “who’s doing the P.R.” for private equity [VanityFair] Lasry's Milwaukee Bucks will field team in new NBA e-sports league [BizJournals] YL Ventures closes $75 million fund to bring Israeli startups to the US [TechCrunch]
"Here's Why Israeli Fintech Startups Are Conquering The Market" by Leigh Cuen: "The fintech industry at large revolves around financial regulation in the target market. So the Israeli mentality, known for a no-nonsense approach and a penchant for redefining boundaries, makes Middle Eastern startups especially attractive to international fintech investors who want to break the mold. “Israeli entrepreneurs are fearless, that is a big factor when it comes to regulation,” Yuval Ariav, Tel Aviv investment partner at Lion Bird Venture Capital, told IBT." [IBTimes]
"Congo Hires Israeli Firm to Lobby Trump Administration" by Thomas Wilson: "Congo agreed to pay MER Security and Communication Systems Ltd. $5.58 million between Dec. 8, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2017 for policy advice and support in lobbying senior government officials and members of Congress... MER will hire U.S.-based lobbyists, while advising the Congolese government on U.S. concerns relating to African security issues and on the appointment, travel and engagements of a Congolese special envoy to the U.S., according to the filings signed by Omer Laviv, the company’s chief executive officer." [Bloomberg]
FIRST JEWISH POTUS? "Hollywood v. Trump: Disney CEO intrigued by 2020 bid" by Mike Allen: "Disney CEO Bob Iger is being pelted with entreaties to run for president in 2020, and is clearly intrigued by the idea, according to industry sources... A ringleader? Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former Disney Studios chairman, is said to be among those encouraging a run. The Hollywood Reporter said in March that "Iger has told friends he is considering their nudges." The rumor in Hollywood is that Katzenberg was a key leak of the story." [Axios]
HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND -- Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Conference: "The annual meeting takes place on Saturday at the CenturyLink Center in Nebraska’s largest city. Shareholders have been streaming in from across the globe to take part in what has become several days of activities around the featured event... Meanwhile, in a borrowed storefront at 1011 Capitol Ave. just across the street from the shareholders meeting, another annual assembly will be taking place. Chabad of Nebraska, co-directed by Rabbi Mendel and Shani Katzman, will host a weekend of Shabbat activities, as they’ve done since the conference moved downtown nearly two decades ago." [Chabad]
DESSERT: "A Culinary Renaissance in the Israeli Countryside" by Saki Knafo: "As we staggered out of the restaurant, an Israeli tour bus pulled up. Israelis—Jewish Israelis—love Arab cooking. Maybe it has something to do with a hunger for a certain kind of authenticity, a visceral connection to the land that the Jewish people only dreamed of during all those years in exile eating matzo ball soup. Whatever the reason, Ein Hawd has benefited from Habait’s popularity in at least one unexpected way. The village got connected to the electrical grid only 10 years ago, after an executive from the national power company came to the restaurant for lunch and learned that her amazing meal had been cooked on a stove powered by a generator." [Smithsonian]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS -- FRIDAY: Venture Capitalist at New Enterprise Associates and a member of the inaugural class of the Schwarzman Scholars program, Andrew Adams Schoen turns 27... Conservative radio talk show host, author, commentator and language-learning enthusiast, a 2014 inductee into the National Radio Hall of Fame, Barry Farber turns 87... Journalist, columnist, author, 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 73... Best-selling author of 18 novels featuring fictional Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper, written by the former head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's office (1976-2002), Linda Fairstein turns 70... Judge on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals since 2000 (Chief Judge since 2007), previously chair of the Maryland Democratic Party and president of the Jewish Community Council of Washington, Peter B. Krauser turns 70... Member of the Knesset, almost continuously since 1988, for the Haredi parties of Degel HaTorah and United Torah Judaism, Moshe Gafni turns 65... Member of the Knesset since 1996 for the Shas party, Minister of Religious Services since 2015, David Azulai turns 63... Television writer and producer, known for The Simpsons, Josh Weinstein turns 51... Television news correspondent, print journalist, stage and film actress, entrepreneur and pro-Israel activist, Lara Berman turns 37... Former Israeli national soccer team captain, Yossi Benayoun turns 37... Executive Director for North America of the Avi Chai Foundation since 1994, a graduate of Yeshiva College and Yale Law School, Yossi Prager... South African-born President of American Jewish World Service, Robert Bank...
SATURDAY: Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford U, previously a Columbia U law professor (1969-1979), a US District Cout judge (1979-1985) and the State Department legal adviser (1985-1990), Abraham David Sofaer turns 79... 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 78... 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 75... Professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago, Martha Nussbaum turns 70... Former Deputy Attorney General of the US (1994-1997), who despite life-long ties to the Democratic Party has recently become the ethics adviser for Ivanka Trump, Jamie S. Gorelick turns 67... French-born president of the Jerusalem College of Technology (2009-2013), holder of two Ph.D degrees (Nice University in France and Bar Ilan), mathematician, professor and Talmudic scholar, Noah Dana-Picard turns 63... Ruderman Professor of Jewish Studies at Northeastern University, Lori Hope Lefkovitz turns 61... 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 58... Attorney and partner in LA-based real estate development firm, Regent Properties, Daniel Gryczman turns 42...
SUNDAY: Billionaire who converted Chris-Craft Industries from the small boat business into a large media holding company, then sold Chris Craft to Rupert Murdoch in 2001 for $5.3 billion, Herbert J. Siegel turns 89... Ontario-based politician, psychiatrist, academic and public servant, served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as a member and leader of the Liberal Party (1975-1982), Stuart Lyon Smith turns 79... Winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1989, professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and chemistry at Yale University, Sidney Altman turns 78... Member of the New York State Assembly since 1993, representing parts of Westchester and Putnam counties, Sandra R. "Sandy" Galef turns 77... Deputy US Secretary of State (2009-2011), Deputy National Security Advisor (1996-2000), currently a professor at Syracuse University, James Steinberg turns 64... Professional poker player and hedge fund manager, Daniel Shak turns 58... Emmy Award-winning film and television director, Adam Bernstein turns 57... Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from the City of Alexandria since 2016 and host of a nationally syndicated progressive public policy radio program, Mark H. Levine turns 51... Democratic member of the US House of Representatives since 2010, representing parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties, Theodore Eliot "Ted" Deutch turns 51... Member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home party since 2013, Israeli Minister of Justice since 2015, Ayelet Shaked turns 41... Snapchat's Rob Saliterman... Jane Press...
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