Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: May 8, 2018

Decision day for Trump on Iran deal | Jason Greenblatt and Ron Lauder's NYC meetup | Axelrod's Sandy Koufax advice for Cory Booker

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks during an 'Unleashing American Energy' event at the Department of Energy in Washington, June 29, 2017.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks during an 'Unleashing American Energy' event at the Department of Energy in Washington, June 29, 2017.Credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters

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DRIVING THE DAY -- "Unswayed by Allies, Trump Is Expected to Leave Iran Deal, Diplomats Say" by David Sanger and Steven Erlanger: "President Trump is expected to announce on Tuesday that he is withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, European diplomats said after concluding that they had failed to convince him that reneging on America’s commitment to the pact could cast the West into new confrontation with Tehran... One senior European diplomat who has been deeply involved in trying to persuade Mr. Trump to stay in the deal told reporters on Monday the chance that the president would keep the agreement intact was “very small.” [NYTimes

"Pompeo signaled Iran deal withdrawal to European colleagues" by Barak Ravid: "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told his colleagues from the E3 — France, Germany and the United Kingdom — on Friday that President Trump has rejected the understandings that were drafted with American negotiators over the last four months regarding a possible fix of the Iran nuclear deal... According to the sources, Pompeo told his European counterparts that — after he showed the document to Trump — the President told him it would not change his thinking about the nuclear deal." [Axios]

Aaron David Miller: "Whatever Trump decides, it’s the beginning of the end of the accord, either death by one, or 1,000, cuts.” [NYTimes

Asked what he would tell Trump if he had two minutes to convince him to stay in the deal, Jake Sullivan -- who was one of the early negotiators for the deal -- replied: "If we stay in the deal and enforce it, we can build international consensus to go after Iran on all of its other bad behavior... If you really want to make sure Iran doesn't start working its way secretly toward a bomb, you need inspectors on the ground. And the only way you're going to have inspectors have access to all of these facilities in Iran is if you keep the deal. And finally, if what you're concerned with is the out years — 10, 15, 20 years from now when some of the restrictions in the deal expire — well, the United States has a long history of negotiating follow-on agreements." [Axios

Prediction from CNN's Sam Vinograd: "Based on past behavior, I think Trump may try to present a "partial" pullout scenario whereby he violates the agreement by not certifying but leaves the door open to negotiate during the period in between now AND when sanctions go into effect" [Twitter]

BEHIND THE SCENES -- "Peter Thiel in Eye of Iran Storm as Deadline Looms for Trump" by Jonathan Tirone: "Silicon Valley billionaire -- and Donald Trump supporter -- Peter Thiel has emerged as an unlikely player in the international debate over Iran’s nuclear deal with six world powers. Thiel’s big-data engine, Palantir Technologies Inc., is at the heart of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s system for verifying Iran’s compliance with the landmark 2015 agreement... Thiel... dined at the White House with Trump and the Israeli-born co-chief executive officer of Oracle Corp., Safra Catz, just hours after the president spoke with Netanyahu about Iran on April 4." [Bloomberg

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM -- "Israel Security Leaders Split on Netanyahu Approach to Iran Deal" by David Wainer: “The Europeans want to push this off for a few years with the idea that it’ll be fine. It won’t be fine,” said Housing Minister Yoav Gallant, a security cabinet member... Others don’t see the Islamic Republic as the apocalyptic threat Netanyahu does... Netanyahu’s recently retired national security adviser, Yaakov Nagel, downplayed the debate among Israeli security officials, saying “there’s no argument among the security establishment regarding fixing or nixing the deal. There are different views regarding the level of the problem, in terms of what kind of fix would make it better than the alternatives." [Bloomberg

If Trump credits Israel or Netanyahu for convincing him to pull out of the deal, will that be good or bad for Israel’s long term strategic interests?

Wilson Center's Aaron David Miller: "Short-term it would be good for Bibi politically as it shows he can manage the US. But if the unraveling leads to conflict and it heads south for both Israel and US this will be viewed as Bibi’s biggest mistake. If on other hand Iran over time is weakened in significant ways, people will look back and say he was a genius.”

FDD's Mark Dubowitz: "What matters for Israel’s long-term interests is not any credit the President gives or doesn’t give but how the Trump administration follows up after today’s decision. Will it use all instruments of American national power to neutralize and rollback Iranian aggression in the region and target the regime? Will it use maximum pressure to build the leverage to get a better nuclear deal that truly cuts off all pathways to a nuclear bomb? Will it provide Israel with everything she needs to counter the Iranian regime threat?"

INTERVIEW -- “Israel’s Ex-Prime Minister Ehud Barak Says Keep the Iran Nuclear Deal” by Neri Zilber: “If Barak had his way post-deal, Israel and the U.S.—including under Barack Obama—would have come together behind closed doors to hedge against the risk: bringing all their intelligence assets to bear on monitoring Iran’s behavior, finding agreement on what exactly would constitute a nuclear “breakout,” as well as clear guidelines for putting the military option back on the table. “I thought we could do it,” he said, “but Bibi chose to do something else with the big speech [to the U.S. Congress in 2015] that I thought was a mistake. But that’s all about the past.”

"Barak didn’t think that the U.S. pulling out would necessarily spell the end of the nuclear deal nor that Iran itself would pull out and race ahead towards a bomb In the longer term, however, the U.S. leaving the agreement may provide Tehran diplomatic cover if it was caught violating the terms of the deal. “The Americans started it, American behavior basically legitimized our own deviation,” Barak said, channeling his inner Iranian official.” [DailyBeast

IPF's Michael Koplow writes... "Donald Trump Is About to Put Israel in Immediate Danger: "The Iran deal is keeping Iran in check from responding to repeated Israeli strikes on its interests in Syria. If Trump heeds Netanyahu’s exhortations to rectify what the prime minister views as a grave American mistake that made Israel more vulnerable, he may end up creating a new vulnerability by removing a key restraint on Iran’s conventional forces."  [Haaretz

"Iran 'may no longer feel constrained' against Israel after Hezbollah’s election success, analyst says" by Sam Meredith: "Although official results have not been announced, Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies were seen as the biggest winners in Lebanon's first parliamentary vote since 2009. "With Lebanon's elections now out of the way, Tehran may no longer feel constrained over a limited military response to Israel's recent attacks on its forces in Syria," Michael Every, senior Asia-Pacific strategist at Rabobank, said in a research note published Tuesday." [CNBC]

James Stavridis and Michael Makovsky write... "How the U.S. Should Wish Israel a Happy 70th Birthday: To counter Iran, Washington should raise the Jewish state’s intelligence clearance and speed up promised military aid." [Bloomberg]

HEARD LAST NIGHT -- Dan Senor, co-author of Start-Up Nation and a past foreign policy advisor to Republican presidential candidates, previewed Trump's decision on the Iran deal and the impact it might have on Israel's security during a panel discussion, featuring Anshel Pfeffer, author of the newly released book, Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu, along with journalists Jodi Rudoren and Amir Tibon at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. [Pic]

"There are three possible outcomes, two of which are good for Netanyahu and Israel," according to Senor. "One outcome is the President announces that the US is pulling out of the deal. I think that would be interesting if the administration has its ducks in a row for what to do the day after the announcement... I would argue that it's good for Israel because it gives the U.S. the tools to put more pressure on Iran, which it is constrained from doing under the terms of the JCPOA. The second outcome, which is also good, is all this fanfare, including the powerpoint presentation [by Netanyahu], has so freaked out the European powers that they're willing to actually demonstrate to the U.S. and Israel that they take it seriously and are willing to amend their policies to address those concerns, I think that's also a good outcome." 

"The third outcome, which is what I worry about most, is that Europe basically persuades the Trump administration that they are going to make changes to address the President's concerns and the Israeli government's concerns, but those are actually very weak changes, and the policies that Europe is offering aren't serious, but they are serious enough to mollify Trump and discourage him from pulling out of the deal. That would be, to me, the worst of all worlds." 

Peter Beinart writes... "Iran Hawks Are the New Iraq Hawks: Many of the assumptions that guided America’s march to conflict in 2003 still dominate American foreign policy today." [TheAtlantic]

JERUSALEM EMBASSY WATCH -- President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence won't be attending the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem next week, the White House said yesterday. Instead, Trump announced he's sending a delegation that includes his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jason Greenblatt. The delegation will be led by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. 

"New U.S. embassy in Jerusalem: A stone plaque and $400,000 in renovations, for now" by Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash: "Standing in the yard outside the soon-to-be U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem last week, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman watched as a worker positioned a newly chiseled stone plaque on the wall. Friedman held up his phone and snapped a picture. For all the fanfare surrounding the opening of the new embassy this coming Monday, the hanging of the plaque on what is currently a consular services building is one of the few changes that will initially take place." [WashPost

"Square near U.S. embassy in Jerusalem to be named for Trump" by Hagay HaCohen: "Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced his intention to formally name the square near the US embassy site the "United States Square in honor of President Donald Trump," the Jerusalem Press Office released on Tuesday." [JPost]

"Israel says Paraguay to move embassy to Jerusalem" by Maayan Lubell: “Paraguay President Horacio Cartes plans to come to Israel by the end of the month to open an embassy in Jerusalem,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in a statement. A Paraguay government spokesman said Cartes was scheduling a trip to Israel to move the embassy on May 21 or May 22." [Reuters]

Jason Greenblatt, Trump's Mideast peace envoy, met with Ronald Lauder at The Manhattan Club in Midtown yesterday, sources told Jewish Insider. In a recent speech at the Jerusalem Post conference in NY, Lauder remarked, "With the most pro-Israel president in American history, Donald J. Trump, I believe that peace is possible and within reach." 

-- Earlier on Monday, Greenblatt met with Dr. Mohammad Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Saudi-based Muslim World League, to discuss current dynamics in the Middle East. "Greenblatt joined Dr. Al Issa "in declaring the importance of speaking out against and condemning those who deny the Holocaust or distort its historical record," a White House spokesperson said. 

After delay, State Dept. begins implementing Taylor Force Act -- by Jacob Kornbluh: The State Department submitted its first report to Congress regarding the criteria Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will use to determine what U.S. assistance directly benefits the Palestinian Authority, as required by the recently passed Taylor Force Act legislation. In a letter from last Thursday issued to Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Mary K. Waters listed the criteria that the Secretary of State will use to determine whether or not assistance for the West Bank and Gaza directly benefits the Palestinian Authority.

The Taylor Force Act requires the State Department to submit to Congress a list of the criteria no later than 15 days after its enactment. The deadline came and went on April 7, 2018. Although the report was submitted 40 days after the law was enacted, Waters noted, “This report fulfills the reporting requirement in that provision.”

OF NOTE: By this time, the State Department was already required to certify whether the PA has stopped the pay-for-slay program (30 days after enactment). [JewishInsider

DRIVING THE CONVO -- “Israel intel firm denies it was hired by Trump aides to discredit Obama officials” by Oliver Holmes: “Referencing Black Cube has become an international sport during 2018,” the company said in a statement on Monday. “Black Cube has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, to anyone close to the administration, or to the Iran nuclear deal.” [TheGuardian

NEW DETAILS -- by Michael Shear and Ronen Bergman: "One person with knowledge of the reports suggested that the company had been hired by a commercial client with an interest in opposing the nuclear deal... Among those listed under the heading “contacts to investigate” are Jeffrey Goldberg, now the editor of The Atlantic; Mark Landler, a White House correspondent for The Times who often writes about foreign policy; Andrea Mitchell, now NBC News’s chief foreign affairs correspondent; and Glenn Thrush, a Times reporter who covered the Obama White House for Politico." [NYTimes]

Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro tells us... "What seems clear is that someone made an effort to harass and dig up dirt on former Obama Administration officials and their families. Who did it and why, is something that the appropriate authorities should investigate. Obviously, if the Administration or its external supporters were involved, it would be scandalous. Public servants, regardless of party, need to know that they can serve their government without fear of harassment and intimidation when they leave office. All Americans should agree to that principle."

HAPPENING TODAY -- The annual Herzliya conference kicks off today on the IDC Herzliya campus. Speakers at the 3-day gathering include Israeli cabinet ministers, Knesset members, Elliott Abrams, Dennis Ross, Ron Prosor, Zalman Shoval, Danny Ayalon, Alon Pinkas, former Senator Mark Kirk, former Undersecretary of Defense Marcel Letter, Brett McGurk, Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, David Makovsky, Ilan Goldenberg, Ken Weinstein, among others. [Livestream]  

TOP TALKER -- "Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, Quits After Assault Claims" by Danny Hakim: "Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general who rose to prominence as an antagonist of the Trump administration, abruptly resigned on Monday night hours after The New Yorker reported that four women had accused him of physically assaulting them..." [NYTimes]

-- Julia Ioffe tweets"The Eric Schneiderman story is yet more confirmation of Czeslaw Milosz's idea of "Ketman": the man who rails the loudest against a sinner is often an even bigger sinner himself."

"Trump grows frustrated with Giuliani as Stormy Daniels drama rages on" by Eliana Johnson, Annie Karni and Darren Samuelsohn: "[Rudy] Giuliani’s press tour has coincided with the announcement that White House lawyer Ty Cobb will be leaving... Trump and his daughter Ivanka both personally called Cobb to express concern about his decision." [Politico]

"State Dept.: Giuliani doesn't speak for US on foreign policy" by Josh Lederman: "On Saturday, Giuliani caused another stir when he... said that the president was “committed” to regime change in Iran... U.S. officials said they were taken aback by Giuliani’s comments and did not consider them to be consistent with current Trump administration policy." [AP]

"After Rudy's meltdown, Michael Cohen Grapples with His New Reality" by Emily Jane Fox: "Cohen’s friends told him that Trump chiding Giuliani was a signal that the president was looking out for Cohen... Cohen recognizes that these interviews have complicated his legal situation. They have also added to his mental strain and financial burden. Cohen has told friends that he and his wife have lost a collective 20 pounds since the raids... Cohen... is mostly distraught over the impact on his family... “I live for my wife and my kids,” he tells friends. “I’d die for my wife and my kids. And this is all ruining their lives.”" [VanityFair]

2018 WATCH -- “George Soros has picked his candidate in the Florida governor’s race" by Kirby Wilson: “Andrew Gillum's governor campaign raised about $450,000 in April. More than half of that sum came from one person: billionaire George Soros. Soros gave $250,000 to a Forward Florida, a Gillum associated political committee in April. Combine that with two six-figure donations in 2017, and Soros' contributions to Gillum now total $450,000.” [TampaBayTimes

2020 WATCH -- "Is Cory Booker for real?" by Hunter Walker: "When pressed about a presidential campaign by Yahoo News, Booker admits he’s going to mull the possibility. “Look, my focus right now is two things; my own reelection and making sure we’re in a strong position for that and the 2018 elections,” Booker said. “I think, that passes, I’ll sit down and give a hard consideration about a lot of folks that are talking to me about doing something else.”

Asked about Booker’s future, David Axelrod sees Booker as an “exceptional political talent” who is a real potential 2020 contender. “I think he is a brilliant guy; big-time personality, interesting thinker, and an at times spellbinding presenter and obviously, a really good story. So, I take him seriously,” Axelrod said... Axelrod recently hosted Booker in Chicago, and the strategist left with the impression that Booker’s flair for the dramatic can sometimes go “a bit too far” and reach a place where the senator “sacrifices a sense of authenticity” for “performance.”

"Axelrod offered up a classic piece of baseball lore from the early days of Dodgers pitching great Sandy Koufax as advice for Booker. “Some catcher told him, ‘You know you are a great pitcher and you throw the ball 100 miles an hour, but if you threw it at 97 and got it over the plate you’d be untouchable,’” recounted Axelrod. “I think that Booker is a great, great talent. I think that he’s in public service for the right reasons, but he probably could take three miles off his fastball, and get the ball over the plate, and be even better,” added Axelrod." [YahooNews]

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STARTUP NATION -- “IFF to buy Israel's Frutarom for $7.1 billion, nearing top spot” by Steven Scheer: “International Flavors & Fragrances Inc agreed to buy Israeli flavors and ingredients maker Frutarom for $7.1 billion in cash and stock on Monday IFF’s takeover of Frutarom, which has been approved by both boards, would be the second largest of an Israeli company, behind Intel’s $15 billion purchase of Mobileye Frutarom sells more than 70,000 products, such as such as natural colors, health and beauty ingredients, natural food protection and enzymes, in 150 countries to mainly mid-sized companies.” [Reuters] Why the Frutarom Deal Is Good, Bad and Ugly All at Once [Haaretz

FORBES SUMMIT IN ISRAEL: "Dr. Ruth Thrills Under 30 Summit With Cofounder Couples Therapy, Tales Of Her Days As A Sniper" by Zach O'Malley Greenburg: "Be careful," says Dr. Ruth Westheimer to the crowd of several hundred assembled before her in Tel Aviv. "I was trained as a sniper." Dr. Ruth regaled the audience with tales of her early days in the Haganah--the forerunner to the Israeli Defense Force--when she arrived in the Holy Land in 1945 as a teenager after losing her family in the Holocaust." [Forbes]

HAPPENING TODAY: "From Cryptocurrency to Space Travel, Is the Future Already Here?" by Leigh Kamping-Carder: "The first Future of Everything Festival kicks off Tuesday... The festival is organized around 12 themes, or tracks, ranging from food to medicine to work. Each covers a half-day of talks, interviews and panels. Speakers include Sarah Jessica Parker, Rahm Emanuel, Alex Rodriguez, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, JetPack inventor David Mayman and many more. An interactive innovation hub will showcase the products of tomorrow." [WSJ

SCENE LAST NIGHT: "Patriots Owner Robert Kraft and Girlfriend Make Met Gala Debut" by Alexia Fernandez: "New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft walked the red carpet at the 2018 Met Gala with girlfriend Ricki Lander. The couple smiled as they posed together Monday night on the stairs of the Metropolitan Museum of Art." [People

"Lynda Carter Wore a Legit Crown to the Met Gala, Hearkening Back to Her Famous Crowned Heroine" by Wendy Gould: "Lynda Carter — perhaps most well-known for kicking butt as Wonder Woman in the '70s television series — hit the Met Gala red carpet wearing a legit golden crown... The front of the gilded crown was perched high atop her head over an elegant updo and features Hebrew writing across the entire length. On the back of her head, she wore a large star clip with an ethereal blue-green gemstone in the center. The shape is reminiscent of the Star of David." [PopSugar; Pic]

MEDIA WATCH -- "Qatar eyes stake in Newsmax" by Ben Schreckinger: "The Qatari government has sought to acquire a major stake in Newsmax, the conservative media company run by President Donald Trump’s friend Chris Ruddy... Qatari officials met with Newsmax representatives on multiple occasions this year... The two people familiar with Qatar’s interest in Newsmax say the talks with the company have been overseen by Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, a younger brother of Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani... According to a person familiar with the Qataris’ thinking on the subject, they view the potential Newsmax investment primarily as a political one," [Politico]

Former Knesset Member Dov Lipman writes on Facebook: "I want to let you know that I am not continuing my political work at this time and have decided to step away from Yesh Atid. New opportunities have just opened up that have the potential to make real change on the ground in Israel. For me at this time, it is too good an opportunity to pass up." [Facebook]

DESSERT: "Stunning landscape photos of skyscrapers, deserts and salt flats – but which country is this?" by Rosie Gizauskas: "Photographer Noam Chen has been taking photos of one country for ten years and is intent on showing off how diverse it is... “Besides being home to some of the world’s most iconic and historically important sites, Israel also has stunning and diverse landscapes that can rival any other country in the world.” [TheSun]

BIRTHWEEK: Co-Founder of the website JewBelong, Archie Gottesman...

BIRTHDAYS: Israel's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Danny Danon turns 47... Retired senior British judge, Baron Leonard Hoffmann turns 84... Former Attorney General of Canada and past president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Irwin Cotler turns 78... MIT Biologist and Nobel Prize laureate H. Robert Horvitz turns 71... Former MLB pitcher (1969-1975) who played for the Angels, Rangers and White Sox, Lloyd Allen turns 68... Born in Amsterdam to a survivor of Auschwitz, now a leading rabbi in both Amsterdam and Rotterdam, dean of the Dutch Israelite Seminary, Rabbi Raphael Evers turns 64... Actor and director Stephen Furst (born Stephen Nelson Feuerstein) turns 63... Director of the USDOJ's Office of Special Investigations (1994-2010) focused on deporting Nazi war criminals, he is now the Director of Human Rights Enforcement Strategy at USDOJ, Eli M. Rosenbaum turns 63... Chief Financial Officer for The Manischewitz Company, Thomas E. Keogh turns 63... President of Barney’s and Ashley furniture stores in Springfield, Illinois, Barry Seidman turns 59... President of Clayton, Missouri-based JurisTemps, Andrew J. Koshner, J.D., Ph.D. turns 58... NYC-based advertising executive, author and entrepreneur, board member of ArtsConnection, an art program provider to NYC public schools, Richard Kirshenbaum turns 57... Co-founder and CEO of the disability advocacy nonprofit, RespectAbility, based in Bethesda, Maryland, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi turns 54... Canadian social activist and documentary filmmaker critical of corporate capitalism, Naomi Klein turns 48... Stand-up comedienne, writer, actress and author, known for appearing on the 9th season of America's Got Talent, Jodi Miller turns 47... Chief Operating Officer at West End Strategy Team's DC Office, Ari Geller turns 45... Managing principal of Los Angeles-based Lockman Consulting Group, lecturer at USC Law School, fellow with the Truman National Security Project, Josh Lockman turns 36... Past president of Congregation B'nai Torah in Sandy Springs, Georgia, Janice Perlis Ellin... Daniel First...