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KAFE KNESSET -- by Tal Shalev and JPost's Lahav Harkov: Dozens of Likud ministers and MKs gathered in the cabinet room to celebrate Bibi's 68th birthday. Perhaps because of the police investigations underway, no one brought any gifts, but Netanyahu's eldest, Yair, gave a rare statement, which could be interpreted as his birthday gesture to his father. After months of rumors about his future political plans, Yair Netanyahu said he has no intention to follow his father's steps. “I admire the price you pay for the nation and the land, but I will never enter politics,” Netanyahu Junior said, while both his parents nodded and applauded.
Earlier this month, Bibi had already distanced himself from Yair's rumored path, and in a Fox News interview said that he does not want his children to follow his political steps. Does this mean no more "Yair Hun," controversial right wing Facebook posts? Not necessarily and a Netanyahu confidant told Kafe Knesset that Yair is very much interested in right wing media, though "he wanted to push off the attacks and the ambush he has been going through in recent weeks, and the whole family thought it was a good idea to put those rumors of a future in politics to rest." [KafeKnesset]
TRANSITIONS -- Netanyahu's special envoy Isaac Molcho announced that he will be leaving his post by the end of February. It might be the end of an era. Molcho is probably one of Bibi's closest advisors, and has been an essential confidant, envoy, and loyalist since he first assumed the post in 1996. Molcho's unique advocacy and negotiating style even has a professional name: "Molchoism", as several sources pointed out: "it's common to hear people in DC say 'don't Molcho me.'"
PMO sources briefed Kafe Knesset that Molcho had asked to be relieved of his duties a year ago but that Netanyahu convinced him to stay. But now Molcho wishes to spend more time with his family... All of this comes against the backdrop of growing public scrutiny of Molcho's volunteer activities and mixture of private business and public activity. This scrutiny, pundits believe is the real reason for Molcho's request to be relieved from his duties. The State is supposed to reply today to looming petitions at the Supreme Court in which the State is supposed to explain why Molcho is still serving as Bibi's advisor in light of the investigation of the Submarine affair, a/k/a File 3000, in which Molcho's partner, Netanyahu's lawyer, David Shimron, is a suspect.
Kafe Knesset learned that one of the leading candidates to replace Molcho is another old-time close associate and advisor of the PM, Dore Gold. Gold was the director general of the Foreign Ministry, between June 2015 and October 2016, and is currently the director of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Gold has been participating in meetings with Molcho and has been in contact with US administration officials for a few weeks now, as part of preparations for an American peace plan that could be formulated in the coming weeks.
The Prime Minister's office confirmed that "Dori Gold is certainly one of the candidates to replace Molcho. The Prime Minister will announce the identity of the replacement soon." Gold told Kafe Knesset that "I did not sign any contract and will continue to be president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. I am happy to assist the Prime Minister in everything and give him my input." Gold expressed regret over Molcho's resignation and said that Molcho was "a tremendous asset to the state." Read today's entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
"According to Intelligence Minister, Israel willing to resort to military action to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons" by Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo: “If international efforts led these days by U.S. President Trump don’t help stop Iran attaining nuclear capabilities, Israel will act militarily by itself,” Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said in an interview in Tokyo. “There are changes that can be made (to the agreement) to ensure that they will never have the ability to have a nuclear weapon.” [Reuters]
ON THE HILL -- "Iran Sanctions Over Support for Hezbollah Pass U.S. House" by Anna Edgerton: "The U.S. House passed new sanctions in response to Iran’s support for Hezbollah... Two bills received bipartisan support Wednesday and represent the first action from Congress against Iran... A third measure addressing ballistic missiles is set for a vote Thursday." [Bloomberg]
"Corker in talks with Cardin on Iran nuclear deal" by Elana Schor: "[Bob] Corker said Wednesday that his conversations with [Ben] Cardin... are in good faith and ongoing. "There’s no rush," Corker told reporters. "We’d like to see if it’s possible to have a bipartisan bill. This bill, we’d hope would pass with 80 to 85 votes by the time we’re through with it." ... "We won't do anything that violates the" terms of the 2015 deal, Cardin said of his fellow Democrats, adding that "we have to have the understanding and support of Europe."
"Democrats remain deeply skeptical that Corker can craft a bill that meets Trump's demand for stronger terms for the Iran pact without blowing up the entire agreement. “I think Sen. Corker is trying to be constructive, to bring together Democrats who support the deal and Republicans who oppose it," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said... Corker said on Wednesday that he is "of course" open to changes to his and Cotton's initial framework that would get Cardin on board, suggesting that an official roll-out of the bill initially expected as soon as this week could slip." [Politico]
HEARD YESTERDAY -- Panel clashes over next steps in Iran debate at the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee -- by JI's Aaron Magid: Mark Wallace, CEO of United Against Nuclear Iran, testified that Congress should pass additional legislation that would reimpose nuclear sanctions on Tehran if the sunset clauses were not eliminated while also intensifying restrictions against the country’s ballistic missile program... However, Philip Gordon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former senior official in the Obama administration, pushed back against Wallace’s proposal. “The problem is that it impossible for the United States to unilaterally alter fundamental terms of the deal or to imagine that our allies and other parties will agree to try to do so,” he explained."
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) blasted the JCPOA for not addressing Tehran’s ballistic missile program and Iranian support for terrorist organizations including Hezbollah and Hamas... Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), a supporter of the JCPOA, said such expectations of the 2015 nuclear agreement were unrealistic. “When Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon negotiated the Salt I (arms control) agreement, did they insist that all negative behavior on the part of the Soviet Union be incorporated into that agreement?” Connolly asked rhetorically. “They did not.” Gordon replied. [JewishInsider]
JARED INSIDER: "Kushner will take a diminished role on Trump's China trip" by Annie Karni and Andrew Restuccia: "Kushner’s shrinking role on the international stage is seen by some White House officials as another sign of Trump’s new chief of staff, John Kelly, standardizing a previously unorthodox power structure. Other White House aides say it’s evidence of a lean administration finally filling out and now running at full power... Kushner, for his part, still participates in China policy meetings at the White House... But now, instead of serving as the point man, he’s one voice at a table that includes more than a dozen Cabinet secretaries and senior White House officials." [Politico]
ADMIN TRAVEL -- Vice President Pence to visit Israel and Egypt in December" by Ken Thomas and Jill Colvin: "Vice President Mike Pence announced Wednesday that he will travel to Israel and Egypt in late December... The vice president’s trip is expected to take him to Israel during Hanukkah, where he’ll discuss the prospects for a Middle East peace agreement in separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Pence is also expected to address U.S. policy toward Iran and highlight Israel’s space program — a favorite issue. Pence is scheduled to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and highlight U.S.-Egypt cooperation on security issues." [AP]
"US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to visit Israel Thursday" by Tal Schneider: "US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin is visiting Israel [today] in his first visit since taking office. Mnuchin landed [yesterday] in Saudi Arabia for a round of meetings with Middle Eastern ministers of finance. Following meetings in Jerusalem on Thursday and Friday, Mnuchin will fly to Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. In Israel, he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon, and will tour Yad Vashem." [Globes] Video of Mnuchin meeting with Netanyahu [Twitter]
"Jewish Agency snubs Netanyahu ahead of upcoming board meeting" by Raphael Ahren: "The Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors... is opening its third and last meeting of 2017 on Sunday in the capital’s David Citadel Hotel... Netanyahu, who usually addresses Jewish Agency Board of Governor meetings at least once a year, has not been invited to speak or to meet with the organization’s leadership... The last time Netanyahu publicly addressed the Jewish Agency was in November 2016 at the Knesset." [ToI]
"New conservative-leaning think tank launched in Jerusalem" by Herb Keinon: "The Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies (JISS) bills itself as Israel’s “new conservative security think tank” that “seeks to counter debilitating currents in Israeli defense and diplomatic discourse and recapture the mainstream in Zionist security thinking.” Efraim Inbar, who headed the BESA Center for 24 years... is the president of the new institute... Eran Lerman, a former deputy head at the National Security Council, said the institute will deal with the basic issues of national security, with an emphasis “on the struggle for the future of Jerusalem.”" [JPost]
STATE-SIDE: "As G.O.P. Bends Toward Trump, Critics Either Give In or Give Up" by Jonathan Martin and Jeremy Peters: "On Wednesday, Joe Straus, the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, announced that he would not run again, an indication that the Washington fever was spreading. Mr. Straus, a pragmatist with deep ties to the Bush family who had tangled with his state’s hard-liners, delivered a plea that Republicans “appeal to our diverse population with an optimistic vision,” but he still chose flight over fight." [NYTimes]
2020 WATCH: "What L.A.'s Mayor Would Do If He Were President" by Laura Bliss: "Steve Clemons, the editor-at-large of Atlantic Live and the panel moderator... asked how Garcetti would translate his progressive transportation policies on a national stage, given the opportunity. The mayor did not miss a step. First, he described an infrastructure bill that would fund transportation projects that “prize innovation.” ... Second, he’d want to fund the full lifetime of transportation projects—not just their construction." [CityLab]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Trump Decides Against Gary Cohn for Fed Chair [Bloomberg] David Horovitz: Why binary options ban is only a small victory in the war on Israeli corruption [ToI] Michael Dell's EMC Bet Looking Shaky [TheInformation] Jeffrey Katzenberg, Evan Spiegel Join Paley Board, Sumner Redstone Shifts to Emeritus [Variety]
PROFILE: "How Did David Rubenstein—Yes, That David Rubenstein—Become a TV Star?" by Ben Woffard: "At 68, David Rubenstein is now host of his own show on Bloomberg Television. The half-hour program—The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations—plops him beside fellow CEOs of the billionaire class, with the occasional sports star and military general thrown in... The show, at first, raised eyebrows. Given his reputation—Rubenstein is known for an unprepossessing manner and an almost enforced personal awkwardness—the prospect of loosing him onscreen seemed about as plausible as asking Clarence Thomas to host Fear Factor."
"Indeed, Rubenstein’s not-made-for-TV persona turns up in every episode as he engages his subjects with a sorrowful deportment that appears vaguely related to sitting shiva. He scowls. He slouches. (He’s been advised, he says joshingly, to “sit up more straight.”) With a jaw that unlatches errantly and a gaze that wanders, he has the aspect of a man continually in deep recall for a geometry exam. But this is a setup, of sorts, for the show’s atonement: his oddball humor, which earns audience laughs during every shoot." [Washingtonian]
TALK OF THE TOWN: "‘Diller Island’ Is Back From the Dead" by Charles Bagli: "The site of Pier 55, a planned arts center on the Hudson River backed by the entertainment mogul Barry Diller. The plan was revived Wednesday, more than a month after it had been canceled... The revival of the project was like “Lazarus,” [Gov. Andrew] Cuomo said in an interview... “Sometimes you just have to believe.” ... Mr. Diller, who had seemed distressed when he canceled the project, said Mr. Cuomo had called him shortly before announcing that a deal had been made. When the governor asked him how he felt, Mr. Diller said he replied, “I feel great, I’m excited again.”" [NYTimes]
MEDIA WATCH: "Five women accuse journalist and 'Game Change' co-author Mark Halperin of sexual harassment" by Oliver Darcy: "During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me," Halperin said in a statement to CNN Wednesday night. "I now understand from these accounts that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain. For that, I am deeply sorry and I apologize. Under the circumstances, I'm going to take a step back from my day-to-day work while I properly deal with this situation." MSNBC, where Halperin makes frequent appearances on "Morning Joe," said early Thursday that Halperin would leave his roles at that network and as an analyst at NBC News." [CNN]
FLASHBACK to episode 11 of The Circus, originally aired March 27, 2016: Quote from host Mark Halperin on Donald Trump's speech at AIPAC: "Trump walks into a huge, tough crowd, gives a well-crafted speech, he shifts on his positions on Israel, ticking the boxes on all the erogenous zones of the American Israel lobby, and walks out triumphant, where the expectations and scrutiny were sky high." [Showtime]
"Scaramucci Holocaust Poll Donation Will Fund Nazi Hunter's Work" by Stav Ziv and Celeste Katz: "Anthony Scaramucci’s $25,000 apology-donation to the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) will go toward funding the efforts of its Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, the organization announced... Scaramucci spokesman Howard Bragman told Newsweek that the former White House communications director also is planning to travel to Israel in November. “Looking back,” Bragman said of the controversial poll, “it would have been nice if it didn’t happen—but since it did happen, we are trying to make the best of it.”" [Newsweek]
"Design for London’s New Holocaust Memorial Is Unveiled" by Anna Codrea-Rado: "A team led by David Adjaye, the Ghanaian-British architect behind the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, has won a competition to design a new Holocaust memorial in London. The winning proposal envisages an elevated memorial site in Victoria Tower Gardens, a park near the Houses of Parliament, and an underground learning center." [NYTimes]
Theresa May sends message to mark Great Shabbat Switch Off: "Prime Minister Theresa May has sent a short message of good wishes via social media to all those taking part in this weekend's Great Shabbat Switch Off for Shabbat UK. The Chief Rabbi said of the initiative: "Separation from mundane work and empty distraction is necessary to reinvigorate one’s soul; to find space for meaningful engagement with our friends and families in a noisy world of media and communications which constantly demand our attention."" [TheJC]
SPORTS BLINK: "Judo Federation chastises Abu Dhabi over Israeli treatment" by Ian Deitch: "The Abu Dhabi Grand Slam is reportedly banning Israeli athletes from wearing their country’s symbols on uniforms, and is singling Israel out with a ban on displaying its flag or playing its anthem. A letter from the IJF to the president of the UAE Judo Federation... says “all delegations, including the Israeli delegation, shall be treated absolutely equally in all aspects, without any exception.” ... The letter was sent to the World Jewish Congress, which represents over 100 Jewish communities, and had asked the IJF to intervene and “protect the rights of the Israeli national judo team and keep the spirit of sport free of political discrimination.”" [AP]
BIRTHDAYS: Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton turns 70... Actress who has appeared in 25 films plus 68 episodes of Will & Grace, Shelley Morrison (born into a Sephardic family as Rachel Mitrani) turns 81... South African judge who led an infamous 2009 UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, Richard Goldstone turns 79... Actress best known as one of Charlie's Angels (1976-1981 TV series), Jaclyn Smith (family name was Kupferschmidt) turns 72... Evie Sullivan turns 71... Rabbi of Congregation K.I.N.S. and Dean of Ida Crown Jewish Academy, both in Chicago, he is a past president of the Rabbinical Council of America, Leonard Matanky, Ph.D., turns 59... Director of Communications at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy since 2011, he was formerly at Hillel, Jeffrey Rubin turns 58... Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff turns 56... Founding Partner and President of of Global Strategy Group, who served for 15 years as an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Jefrey Pollock turns 46... Figure skater who won a 2006 Olympic silver medal, plus three World Championship medals and the 2006 U.S. Championship, Sasha Cohen turns 33... Alberto Calo... Evan May...
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