Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: November 13, 2017

Trump admin pushed Congress to water down Taylor Force Act | WH latkes for Sheldon? | The Rabbi who listens to podcasts at 2.8x speed

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File photo: Sheldon Adelson.
File photo: Sheldon Adelson.Credit: John Locher/AP

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SCENE LAST NIGHT -- Speaking at the Zionist Organization of America's (ZOA) annual gala at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in NYC, ousted White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon heaped praise on Sheldon Adelson for standing by Donald Trump’s side during the low-point of his presidential campaign, the release of the Hollywood Access video. “That victory would not have come without the support of Sheldon Adelson,” Bannon said to loud applause. “It’s about counsel, guidance, and wisdom And you know what most of the Republican establishments do when things get tough - they cut and they run. Sheldon Adelson didn’t cut and run. Sheldon Adelson has Donald Trump’s back. Sheldon Adelson offered guidance, counsel, and wisdom of how to get us through.”

Bannon did not call out other Republican establishment figures by name, but over the weekend he called GOP megadonor Paul Singer a ‘scumbag.’ “Paul Singer doesn’t mean anything to me, all the flunkies who work for Paul Singer don’t mean anything to me. And guess what brothers, we’re coming for you guys, ok, write it down,” Bannon said on Breitbart News Daily, before labeling him and other establishment figures “Republican scumbags.” 

Asked if he’s ok with Bannon’s attack on Singer, ZOA’s Mort Klein told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh: “Apparently he’s unhappy with Paul Singer about what he is doing. I don’t like name calling because from name calling you learn nothing. I don’t know what Singer did that he is so unhappy about, but I do not support name calling.”

Klein on Trump's peace push: “I’m really sick and tired of calling this peace talks. After 24 years, we are further away from peace than ever before. By the way, we haven’t moved the embassy, has that helped? No... I think this is an impossible deal. The two sides are impossibly far apart... they could’ve had a state so many times if they wanted to. They won’t even sit and negotiate. I mean, it’s getting silly already. You know, 24 years and saying we are still involved in a peace process? Do you know, if you’re engaged for 24 years to a woman and you’re not marrying her, I don’t consider that an engagement anymore. He’s just dating her. They don’t want to get married.”

In his remarks at the dinner, Bannon implored the Jewish audience to join his campaign against the Republican establishment in Washington, DC. "We're leading an insurgency movement against the Republican establishment," Bannon said. "That's how you get the Iran deal. That's how we still allow the American government to finance people that have blood on their hands of innocent Jewish civilians. Until Taylor Force [Act] is passed, until the Iran deal is totally decertified, torn up and renegotiated, the establishment is just tapping along the Jewish community of this country and our partners in Israel."

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY) touted Bannon's pro-Israel bona fides as he introduced him to the crowd. "Earlier this year I had the opportunity to spend a good amount of time with Steve at the West Wing. Throughout the entire time, he was actually talking about how do we combat the rising tide of anti-Semitism in the U.S. and abroad, how do we combat this BDS movement... Recently, Mahmoud Abbas visited Washington, and Arthur Schwartz called up his friend Steve Bannon and asked him what it was like? And Steve said, 'I am not at the White House. I refuse to be there. I will not breathe the same air as that terrorist.' He said, 'I will not be able to look you in the eye after breaking bread with someone [who has] Jewish blood on their hands.' ... As a Jewish man, as someone who is one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, [I can say] Steve Bannon is a friend of Israel and he is a friend of Judaism." 

U.S. Ambassador David Friedman: “We came into office on the heels of perhaps the greatest betrayal of Israel by a sitting president in American history. I hope you agree with me that we have turned a page since the dark days of last December...  There is no daylight between the United States and Israel on the critical importance of [stopping] the development of Iran's arsenal and ending its sponsorship of rogue regimes... As you know, the President is committed to seeking a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but never in a way that ever jeopardizes the security of the State of Israel. The President recognizes the critical importance that Judea and Samaria never become another failed experiment like we saw in the Gaza Strip." [Video]

-- Other speakers at last night's event included Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK), Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), former Senator Joe Lieberman, professor Alan Dershowitz, and Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy. 

HOW IT PLAYED: "At the Zionist Organization of America’s annual gala Sunday evening, Stephen Bannon, Sean Spicer, and Sebastian Gorka got to be rock stars again." [DailyBeast]

JI EXCLUSIVE -- Jason Greenblatt pushed Congress to water down Taylor Force Act -- by Aaron Magid: The Trump administration’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt lobbied Congressional offices to add new exemptions to the Taylor Force Act, a senior Republican Senate aide and second Congressional staffer confirmed to Jewish Insider. On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will be voting on the legislation, which has undergone significant revisions from the Senate’s version of the bill. "Congressional offices proactively reached out to us asking for our opinion on potential exemptions so we shared some ideas when asked. We did not lobby for this exemption,” a White House official told Jewish Insider, while declining to specifically comment on Greenblatt’s role. 

According to the text of the new House version of the bill, that was shared with Jewish Insider by a third Capitol Hill source, the measure now includes an exemption for the wastewater program. Additional changes to the House bill includes a sunset clause where the economic penalties against the PA would end five years after fiscal year 2018. The Senate version included no such end date. The updated House version does not mandate that the PA “revoke” such laws. Instead, Ramallah can take “comparable action that has the effect of invalidating any such law, decree, regulation or document.” [JewishInsider]

KAFE KNESSET -- Israel's Version of the Taylor Force Act -- by Tal Shalev and JPost's Lahav Harkov: While the Taylor Force Act is set to move forward in Congress this week, the Israeli version of the bill is apparently being delayed by the government. Today, the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee held a meeting on the bill that aims to deduct the amount the Palestinian Authority pays to families of terrorists in Israeli prisons from the tax payments that Israel transfers to the PA. The Israeli version of the Taylor Force Act is sponsored by Yesh Atid's Elazar Stern but it is supported by the coalition as well. It has been five months since the bill was approved in a preliminary reading, but a Defense Ministry legal advisor, who was present at the debate today, argued there's still more professional work to be done. "Before the bill is drafted, serious staff work is needed in order to formulate all of the necessary data and mechanisms."  

Likud MK Avi Dichter, who chairs the committee, fumed at the delay. "There is no dispute about the fact that a Palestinian terrorist, whether he is in an Israeli prison or in a Palestinian grave, receives a monthly salary for him or his family. This has been going on for 23 years. I am trying for a moment to understand the logic of how we are supposed to act as a Knesset. How long do you think the fire will continue to spread? I do not recognize any operative proposal of yours." Thus, sources close to Defense Minister Liberman said after the debate that the Ministry will be promoting a government bill on the matter, which would freeze - rather than deduct - the transfer of payments to the PA. "The government bill will provide the best and most comprehensive response to the issue, and will make the private legislative initiatives on the subject redundant," the sources said. Read today's entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

MOVING INTO PHASE 2: “Trump Team Begins Drafting Middle East Peace Plan” by Peter Baker: “Mr. Trump’s team has collected “non-papers” exploring various issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and officials said they expected to address such perennial dividing points as the status of Jerusalem and settlements The core four-member team drafting the plan includes [Jared] Kushner, [Jason] Greenblatt, Dina H. Powell and David M. Friedman, the ambassador to Israel. They are consulting with Donald Blome, the consul general in Jerusalem, and others from the State Department and National Security Council. Officials said the effort may take until early next year"

“But privately, officials from both sides express concern that Mr. Trump and his team are still nave about the Middle East Dennis Ross, the veteran Middle East peace negotiator, said Mr. Trump’s team has “done a very good job of presenting themselves as having listened” and is now “taken seriously” in the region. The decision to present a concrete plan makes sense if ground is prepared in advance. “If you simply resume negotiations and nothing accompanies it, nobody will take it seriously,” Mr. Ross said. “People will say we’ve seen this movie before. You have to show people — no, something is different this time.”” [NYTimes]  

REPORT: "Saudis told Abbas to accept Trump peace plan or resign" by Sue Surkes: "Abbas was called unexpectedly to Riyadh six days ago by the office of the powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. There, in addition to being told to “accept Trump’s peace plan or quit,” he was ordered to keep away from any Iranian influence, according to the report on Israel’s Channel 10." [ToI]

DEEP DIVE: "Al-Qaeda Has Rebuilt Itself—With Iran's Help" by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark: "Last week, the CIA declassified a new trove of documents from the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. This document dump, which will take years to sort through and analyze, appeared to confirm the relationship—detailing among other things how Hamza, Osama bin Laden’s son, sheltered in Iran and even got married there; and how, according to one 19-page document, negotiations between al-Qaeda and the Revolutionary Guards in Tehran touched on funding and arming the Sunni terror outfit so it could strike at American targets." [TheAtlantic]

THE OTHER MIDEAST DEAL: “Israel signals free hand in Syria as U.S., Russia expand truce” by Dan Williams: “A U.S. State Department official said Russia had agreed “to work with the Syrian regime to remove Iranian-backed forces a defined distance” from the Golan Heights frontier with Israel [Netanyahu’s] regional cooperation minister, Tzachi Hanegbi, sounded circumspect about the deal, telling reporters that it “does not meet Israel’s unequivocal demand that there will not be developments that bring the forces of Hezbollah or Iran to the Israel-Syria border in the north. There’s reflection here of the understanding that Israel has set red lines, and will stand firm on this,” Hanegbi said.” [Reuters

“'Iran building permanent military base 30 miles from Israel border'" by Erez Linn, Yoni Hersch, Lilach Shoval and Daniel Siryoti: “Western intelligence sources told the BBC last week that Iran was building a military base in Syria some 30 miles from the border with Israel Satellite images obtained by the British broadcasting network show construction or renovation of more than 20 buildings comprising multiple stories... Another Western source cited in the report said senior Iranian officials had visited the compound in recent weeks The BBC reported that Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, had been seen in Syria a number of times.” [IsraelHayom

"How Saudi Arabia turned on Lebanon's Hariri" by Samia Nakhoul, Laila Bassam and Tom Perry: "Sources close to [Saad] Hariri say Saudi Arabia has concluded that the prime minister... had to go because he was unwilling to confront Hezbollah. Multiple Lebanese sources say Riyadh hopes to replace Saad Hariri with his older brother Bahaa as Lebanon's top Sunni politician. Bahaa is believed to be in Saudi Arabia and members of the Hariri family have been asked to travel there to pledge allegiance to him, but have refused." [Reuters Lebanon's Annual Marathon Turns Into Rally for Hariri Return [Bloomberg]

"Lebanon's PM Says He May Rescind Resignation, Will Return" by Jason Slotkin: "During a live interview, Saad Hariri said he would return to Lebanon within days to formally submit his resignation, if not rescind it." [NPR]

CHARM OFFENSIVE: Trump recently sent a letter to Netanyahu thanking him for praising his policy speech on Iran at the United Nations General Assembly, Barak Ravid reports. The Israeli Prime Minister presented the letter to Likud ministers during a weekly meeting yesterday. "I thank you for the support and the reinforcement. Together we will act against Iran,” Trump wrote, according to a minister who attended the meeting.

COMING ATTRACTION -- Who's in, who's out? “Invitations have gone out for Trump first White House Hanukkah reception to take place on December 7th, as first reported by NYTimes reporter Maggie Haberman. "The President and Mrs. Trump request the pleasure of your company at a Hanukkah Reception to be held at The White House on Thursday, December 7, 2017 at seven o'clock," reads the invitation, a copy of which was obtained by Jewish Insider. See the invite here [Pic

Flashback to 2012 -- “Sheldon Adelson Is Buying the World’s Most Expensive Potato Latke” by Dan Amira: “Adelson said he recently told Romney: “I want to tell you something: I’m not looking for an ambassadorship. I’m not looking for anything, except if I’m fortunate enough to be invited to another [White House] Hanukkah party, I want two potato pancakes, because last time I was there, they ran out of them.”” [NYMag

SCENE LAST NIGHT IN LA -- Approximately 600 people attended the Republican Jewish Coalition's (RJC) West Coast event at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles. Featured speakers included Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, and a keynote address from RNC Finance Chairman Steve Wynn. The RJC honored Richard Sherman and board member Jason Sugarman with the RJC’s Ronald Reagan Leadership award.  

SPOTTED: Elliot Broidy, RJC's Matt Brooks and Norm Coleman, Congresswoman Mimi Walters, Elan Carr, Michael Makovsky, Adam Ross, Yitz Applbaum, Fred Karlinsky, Lenny Sands, Joel Geiderman, Ron Bloom, Antonio Sabato Jr., Peter Guber, and Ron Plotkin. 

WORTH A LISTEN: Peter Guber – legendary film producer, an owner of the LA Dodgers and Golden State Warriors, professor and best-selling author - chats with LionTree CEO Aryeh Bourkoff on the KindredCast podcast about his career at the forefront of entertainment and sports in a frank and funny dialogue. [SoundCloud]

2018 WATCH: "Cuomo, a Master of the $50,000 Fund-Raiser, Bypasses Small Donors" by Shane Goldmacher: "With a 70 percent approval rating in New York City... [Governor Andrew] Cuomo’s path to re-election seems smooth. Still, he is taking no chances; his bulging war chest makes him a particularly imposing front-runner. He will add to it this week as he heads to California, with stops in San Francisco and Beverly Hills... Donors will be asked for as much as $50,000 to rub shoulders with the governor at the home of Jeff Shell, the chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. Other boldfaced names on the invitation include the CBS chief executive, Leslie Moonves; the Disney chief, Bob Iger, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder of DreamWorks Animation." [NYTimes]

HEARD YESTERDAY -- LA Mayor Eric Garcetti grabs the spotlight at the Jewish Federations of North America's General Assembly in LA -- by Bob Jacob: "For me, the story of Los Angeles and our Jewish community starts quite far back in our history. You look in the 19th century. ... at a time when this pueblo only had 1,500 people. The first nonprofit organization founded it in the city was a Jewish one – the Hebrew Benevolent Association. And when you look at the first chamber of commerce president, he was a Jew. When you looked at the city council president in the 19th century, I'm actually not the first Jewish mayor in Los Angeles' history because Bernard Cohn was the city council president in the 1880s. When the mayor died, because that's what charter said, a Jew became mayor, for exactly two weeks until they realized a Jew was the mayor and they held an election.” Then after the laughter from the more than 2,000 people in attendance stopped, he said, "I'm the first elected Jewish mayor." [ClevelandJewishNews ‘Tackling Hard Issues’: the GA Makes a Return to L.A. [JewishJournal]

HAPPENING TODAY AT THE GA -- Israeli President Reuven "Ruvi" Rivlin will address the JFNA's General Assembly during the afternoon plenary session. Israeli Consul General of New York Dani Dayan, Reut's Gidi Grinstein, and Dr. Bethamie Horowitz, Professor at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, will discuss the Western Wall crisis and the Israel-Diaspora relationship in a panel moderated by JPost's Yaakov Katz. During the morning session, former WH Liaison Matt Nosanchuk, UJA NY's Eric Goldstein, Jewish Federations of Greater Los Angeles CEO Jay Sanderson, and Tablet's Alana Newhouse will discuss the ongoing challenge of politics and philanthropy. [Program]

** Good Monday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email **

SPOTLIGHT: Prince Charles suggested 'influx of foreign Jews' was partly to blame for Middle East unrest -- by Ian Gallagher: “Prince Charles was fiercely criticised last night after it emerged he once urged the US to ‘take on the Jewish lobby’ – and blamed ‘the influx of foreign Jews’ for causing unrest in the Middle East Writing to his close friend Laurens van der Post in 1986, the Prince makes a startling assessment of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He argues it was the exodus of European Jews in the middle of the last century that ‘helped to cause the great problems’... He then expresses the hope a US President will find the courage to stand up to the American ‘Jewish lobby.’” [DailyMail

LongRead: "How a Trove of Nazi Art Wound Up Under Lock and Key on an Army Base in Virginia" by Andrew Beaujon: "In 2019, the Army will open the vast National Museum of the United States Army in Fort Belvoir, but it’s unclear whether much of the Nazi collection will see the light of day. Though civilian researchers can ask for a visit, the Army is pretty careful about who’s allowed in... [Gordon] Gilkey died in 2000, having spent a career in academia, rising to dean of liberal arts at Oregon State University, where he donated more than 10,000 prints he’d collected over the years. [Sarah] Forgey says it’s not unthinkable that the Army might at some point show some of the darker works he acquired: “I’ve believed that this material can be interpreted in an educational exhibit, and you know it is for the good of the country that we see it.”" [Washingtonian]

HOLLYWOOD: “Gal Gadot will only be ‘Wonder Woman’ again if Brett Ratner is out” by Emily Smith: "A Hollywood source tells Page Six that Gadot — who last month backed out of a dinner honoring Ratner, where she was due to present him with an award — is taking a strong stance on sexual harassment in Hollywood and doesn’t want her hit “Wonder Woman” franchise to benefit a man accused of sexual misconduct. Ratner’s production company RatPac-Dune Entertainment helped produce “Wonder Woman” as part of its co-financing deal with Warner Bros.” [PageSix

"Meet the People Who Listen to Podcasts at Super-Fast Speeds" by Doree Shafrir: "Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, who does social media for Chabad and runs an organization with his wife Chana called Tech Tribe, had perhaps the most philosophical view of speed listening. (He listens to the 75 podcasts in his feed at 2.8x.) When asked how he decided to increase his speed, he responded, "There's a concept that whenever you're striving to do something new, whatever is hard now, that's what you should try to do. Then when you become complacent and comfortable that's a sign that it's time to move on," he said. "I'm applying that concept on a spiritual level. As soon as I could really hear what's going on, I would inch it up a little bit."" [BuzzFeed]

WORTH A LISTEN #2: On WNYC's The Leonard Lopate Show, Francine Klagsbrun discussed her new biography of Golda Meir titled, "Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel." Klagsbrun describes her journey from Kiev to Pinsk to Milwaukee to the Israeli Prime Minster's Office: "She came from a country where Jews were not being persecuted....I often think that she could have risen and become the first woman president, that we still don't have. But she gave it all up because she really believed so strongly in creating a homeland for the Jewish people." [WNYC]  Happening Tonight at Columbia University in NYC, Klagsbrun will talk about her new book in conversation with Daniel Bonner, a Fellow at the Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies [IIJS]

TALK OF THE TOWN: "Uber Driver Dies After Being Struck With Hockey Stick, Police Say" by Ashley Southall: "[Randolph] Tolk’s son Andrew, 31, said his family was “stunned” by the death of its patriarch, who had talked of moving to Las Vegas to be closer to his wife, Barbara, their two sons and three grandchildren. Mr. Tolk had been expected to visit Las Vegas next month for a Jewish naming ceremony for Andrew’s 1-month-old daughter." [NYTimes]

SPORTS BLINK: "What a week for Bregman, Pederson, Kapler and Koufax" by Steve Wulf: "During the [World] Series, there was a certain glow in synagogues across the land, lit by a visceral longing among Jews for baseball stars of their own. "Even in Los Angeles, where I wore my Bregman jersey, members of the tribe kept coming up to me to tell me how excited they were for Alex," Sam [Bregman] says. "I hear that rabbis were saying blessings."" [ESPN]

BIRTHDAYS: Harold Waldenberg turns 97... Israeli industrialist with holdings in energy, real estate and automobile distributorships, Gad Zeevi turns 78... Philosopher and professor at CUNY since 2002, formerly professor at Princeton University (1977-2002), Saul Kripke turns 77... Chief Rabbi of Rome, Rabbi Shmuel Riccardo Di Segni turns 68... Long-time NPR political editor focused on Congressional races, now publisher of the independent “Political Junkie” blog and podcast, Kenneth Rudin turns 67... Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit since 1997, he was nominated by President Obama to the Supreme Court in 2016 but was never granted a confirmation hearing by the Senate, Judge Merrick Garland turns 65... Once the controlling stockholder of a large Israeli conglomerate, Nochi Dankner turns 63... San Jose, California resident, Katherine Palkin... Somali-born activist who has served in the Dutch parliament and as a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, Ayaan Hirsi Ali turns 48... 

Founder of Pailet Financial Services, a predecessor agency of what is now the Dallas office of the Marsh & McLennan, Kevin Pailet turns 46... Member of the Knesset since 2015 for the Kulanu party, Meirav Ben-Ari turns 42... Host of NBC’s “Rossen Reports,” investigative journalist and author of a book on avoiding consumer scams, dangers and catastrophes, Jeff Rossen turns 41... Israeli rapper and record producer, generally known by his stage name "Subliminal," Yaakov (Kobi) Shimoni turns 38... PR and communications director in the office of Ronald S. Lauder, previously a spokesman for then NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Mark Botnick turns 33... Relief pitcher in the Colorado Rockies organization, he pitched for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Troy Neiman turns 27... Communications Director at Christians United For Israel, Ari Morgenstern...

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