HEARD LAST NIGHT — President Trump at the National Republican Congressional Committee annual spring dinner held at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.: “To support Israel’s security, just last week — and this has been going on for 58 years ― I recognized fully Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Fifty-eight years, they have been talking. They’ve had committees, they’ve had meetings ― they’ve had 32 different meetings, and it’s talk and they never do it. So we did it.”
Trump’s Trading Places Dream: “And I will tell you what. I don’t know about the United States, I think we’re doing well, but I can run for the prime minister of Israel. That’s what they tell me. I think I am at 98 percent in Israel. You’d better be careful, I’ll leave here and go run in Israel.” [CSPAN]
KAFE KNESSET — Gantz Comes Into His Own — by Neri Zilber: Just over two months after formally entering political life, and with the election mere days away, Benny Gantz seems to be coming into his own. The Blue and White head, much maligned early on for not speaking publicly and, when he did, for being too scripted and robotic, last night gave arguably the strongest performance of his campaign to date at a massive town hall in Tel Aviv. Speaking to over 1,000 attendees, many still undecided, Gantz was sharp and on message, funny and loose, as he articulated a positive vision for the country while still differentiating himself from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Standing up on stage with only a mic in his hand, Gantz explained that the Zionist vision rested on several pillars: a Jewish State for the Jewish people, well-defended, with recognized borders, a strong economy, high societal ethics both inside and outside (“light unto the nations”), and good relations with the Diaspora. “The entire pillars are at stake right now,” Gantz said. It was a theme he would return to often: an “emergency era” that required real change, and a government interested in working for the people (and not vice versa). “We’ve always had three synagogues,” Gantz said, repeating the old joke about the two Jews, “but we always managed to stay united, that’s the role of leadership… Unfortunately that’s not the case now [with Netanyahu]… Enough is enough.”
On the Palestinian issue he said his priority was to ensure a Zionist “end state” — Jewish and democratic — and not a binational state, while keeping the Jordan Valley, a united Jerusalem, and modifying the 1967 lines. Gantz didn’t think there was anybody to talk to on the Palestinian end at present, but he also added that “new leadership” was needed on both sides. “I don’t want to rule the Palestinians…Let’s continue the dialogue and see where it takes us…we need to shape the solution and not just manage the conflict,” he said. He was “very happy,” he went on, about the close ties between Bibi and President Donald Trump — “a relationship between people is important” — but the “relationship between countries is even more important.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]
Palestinians largely ignored in run-up to Israeli election — by Josef Federman: “In a charged election campaign that has been heavy on insults and short on substance, Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians has been notably absent from the discourse… It is a far cry from past elections, when peace with the Palestinians was the central issue for voters… ‘The peace track is currently in a coma,’ said Shmuel Rosner, a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute. ‘There’s not much hope for a viable solution to be revived in the near future, so people can just keep pushing it aside until someday it comes back to haunt them.'” [AP]
Noam Rotem, one of the researchers behind the report on pro-Netanyahu bot network, said on Tuesday he has seen Twitter shut down 258 of the over 400 automated and fake accounts his team identified.
A new poll published by Israel’s Channel 13 Tuesday night predicted the Likud would get 29 Knesset seats, besting Gantz’s Kachol Lavan by one seat. The party gaining support is the Labor party, which has jumped to 14 projected seats. Another poll conducted by the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research at the Israel Democracy Institute found that 63% of Israelis believe Netanyahu’s standing in the current election campaign was strengthened by Trump’s Golan recognition.
From Raf Sanchez’s Telegraph newsletter: “One of the joys of Israeli electoral law is that no public poll will be published after Friday. That means we will be basically flying blind – with no idea about last-minute slips or surges – until we see exit polls on election night itself.”
TRUMP WHISPERER — On Middle East Peace, the White House Turns to… Alan Dershowitz — by Betsy Woodruff and Asawin Suebsaeng: “Alan Dershowitz… has consulted with senior White House officials on efforts to negotiate a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. ‘I’ve consulted with them about it,’ Dershowitz told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. He said he has discussed the issue with Jared Kushner, special envoy Jason Greenblatt, Ambassador David Friedman, and President Trump himself… And he said he spoke with White House advisers before they rolled out some of their biggest decisions on the issue, including moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing the Golan Heights as part of Israel.”
“A source close to the president confirmed that, saying Trump encouraged senior officials — including Kushner to keep Dershowitz in the loop on these matters from the first days of his presidency. The president has also stressed to those close to him that Dershowitz could be helpful because of his friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” [DailyBeast]
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Michael Singh, former national security official in the George W. Bush administration, suggests the Trump administration should resume aid to the Palestinians Authority to ensure the success of Trump’s peace plan. “Aid programs bring American officials into contact with a wide swath of Palestinian society, which can help ensure that American influence outlasts the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority,” he writes in the NYTimes. “It would be rash to assume that the vacuum left by the United States will not be filled by others, such as Russia, whose agenda in the region diverges sharply from Washington’s.” [NYTimes]
HEARD IN NYC — Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett discussed her new book, Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward, in a conversation with Mika Brzezinski at the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center last night.
Jarrett said that when she first met with former President Barack Obama, they found something in common by the fact they both spent their childhood abroad (Jarrett was born in Iran, while Obama spent his childhood in Indonesia). “We both thought that the U.S. is already the greatest country on earth, but it’s not the only country on earth, and you can actually learn a great deal outside of the United States. And that shaped our view of foreign policy to a large degree.” [Pic]
In her book, published on Tuesday, Jarrett details her first visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp accompanying President Obama and the late Elie Wiesel in 2009. “On the site of the barracks where [Wiesel] and his father were housed, there was a photo of him in one of the cramped four-level bunks. He stared at the emaciated image of himself. As I looked at the sunken eyes of the photo returning his gaze, I couldn’t imagine the thoughts running through his mind,” Jarrett writes. “After the walk around the grounds, President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Elie Wiesel addressed the press. Wiesel said, about the day his father died, ‘He [was] on the upper bed and I was on the lower bed. He called my name, and I was too afraid to move. All of us were. And then he died. I was there, but I was not there.’ Despite his excruciating words, there was a remarkable absence of bitterness in his tone. As we all listened, he told his story, seeking not recrimination but understanding. I was deeply touched by this special man who had experienced so much hate, pain, and loss yet could still be a kind and gentle spirit.” [pg. 192-193]
ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: The House advanced a resolution on Tuesday that directs the U.S. to remove all troops from the conflict in Yemen, unless authorized by Congress, putting it on track to be sent to the president’s desk. The bill, first proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), passed the Senate last month in a 54 to 46 vote. The House is expected to debate the bill before bringing it to a vote.
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), who voted for the resolution last month, told Jewish Insider that even if the bill passes the House, he expects President Trump to exercise his veto. “My reaction is it’s telling that the legislative branch of government – which is the body that has, under our constitution’s ability to determine where American military should be – does not want our troops assisting the Saudis in Yemen and there’s good reason for that,” he said. “So the President’s an outlier and he’s using powers that I think our framers never intended to be used.”
FDD’s Jonathan Schanzer tells Jewish Insider: “The U.S. footprint in this conflict is minimal, to have Sunni allies against Shia proxies is not something that runs counter to American interests at the end of the day. My understanding is the Saudi’s have not done a terrific job in terms of wooing their friends in Congress. In the aftermath of Khashoggi, they angered a lot of staffers on the Hill by not being honest, by obfuscating, evading and eluding questions — we all know now how the Khashoggi affair rolled out and it was rather embarrassing for the Saudi’s.”
Washington Institute’s Dennis Ross: “US troops are not really playing a role in the Yemen war. The vote is more symbolic in terms of communicating Congressional unhappiness with the Saudis, with the Administration for not imposing some consequences for the Khashoggi murder, and with the inability to produce a new authorization of military force for our troops operating in the region. It is a reminder that getting any arms sales through the Hill for the Saudis is likely to remain very difficult.”
WATCH — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) mocked White House senior advisor Jared Kushner for reportedly using WhatsApp to conduct sensitive conversations with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Wednesday: “I mean, really, what is next, putting nuclear codes in Instagram DMs?!? This is ridiculous.” [Video]
SPOTTED LAST NIGHT — Per a tipster, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) at the Soussi Hookah Bar & Lounge in D.C… Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were sighted dining alone at Nobu DC.
INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports: Trump looked at replacing Fed chair Jay Powell with Kevin Warsh, the son-in-law of Trump whisperer Ronald Lauder, who was considered for the job last year. Trump ultimately chose Powell at the strong urging of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The Wall Street Journal’s Nick Timiraos and Alex Leary report that Trump blasted Powell at three meetings in the past week, telling senators and others that if not for Fed rate increases, “economic output and stocks would be higher and the U.S. budget deficit would be rising less.”
INBOX — Former DHS Secretaries Michael Chertoff and Jeh Johnson will co-chair a new Community Safety and Security Task Force convened by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Secure Community Network (SCN), the homeland security and safety initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The task force will work to enhance the safety, security and resiliency of religious communities.
FDD’s Mark Dubowitz writes… “Build an Iranian Sanctions Wall: Democrats are talking about re-entering the 2015 Iran nuclear deal if they defeat President Trump next year… There’s plenty more the Trump administration can do. The U.S. could combine economic coercion, including driving Iranian oil exports to zero (as administration officials have promised to do), with greater support for Iranians, who have protested on the streets since December 2017… That might cripple key sectors of the economy and lead to larger protests, similar to those that hit the shah in 1978 and 1979… The administration could also build a wall of additional sanctions that a pro-Tehran successor could not easily dismantle.” [WSJ]
2020 WATCH — Joe Biden’s tactile politics threaten his return in the #MeToo era… Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) raised $18 million in the first quarter of presidential campaign… Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is ‘very close’ to a decision on a 2020 run that would emphasize his pro-business record in Virginia… Mayor Pete Buttigieg hits LA to boost Hollywood support… Buttigieg spoke to the New Yorker on how he plans to win the Democratic nomination and defeat Trump…
** Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip? 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 Editor@JewishInsider.com
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Andreessen Horowitz Is Blowing Up The Venture Capital Model (Again) [Forbes] • Leon Black’s Apollo to Launch Seven Funds in Hot Market for Private Capital [Bloomberg] • Wynn Resorts Executives Tried to Hide Misconduct Allegations Against Steve Wynn, Regulators Say[WSJ] • Rahm Emanuel, J. B. Pritzker move to grab Georgia’s film and TV biz[CrainsChicago]
MORE BRIEFS: Peter Orszag, currently Head of M&A, North America, will become Chief Executive Officer of Financial Advisory at Lazard [Businesswire] • Former Frutarom CFO Alon Granot Joins Ehud Barak’s Cannabis Company [Calcalist] • Israel needs a more sophisticated financial market, Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron says [Reuters] • Ehud Olmert joins Israeli cannabis company Univo [Globes]
PROFILE — Eden Dersso Is the Changing Face of Tel Aviv’s Hip-Hop Scene — by Orit Pnini: “Over the past year, Dersso has become a sensation in the city’s small but growing rap scene, yet she has spent her whole life preparing for this meteoric rise… Most of her YouTube videos hover around 70,000 to 100,000 views—quite a feat for a rising Israeli artist—and she performs gigs several times a month… Dersso’s background, like those of many immigrants and Israelis of color, has deeply affected her sense of identity. She tells me that she feels Ethiopian when she is in her community and very Israeli outside of it… Ethiopian-Israelis’s lives have been far from easy in Israel, being heavily marked by economic disadvantage and pervasive discrimination, including hiring bias, random identification checks, and police brutality. In a powerful response, Dersso celebrates her heritage in her lyrics.” [Vogue]
LONG READ — How Rupert Murdoch’s Empire of Influence Remade the World — by Jonathan Mahler and Jim Rutenberg: “In early 2015, Murdoch got a call from Ivanka Trump, proposing lunch with her and her father. They met soon after in the corporate dining room of the Fox News building in Midtown Manhattan. Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, came, too. Just as the first course was being served, Trump told Murdoch that he was going to run for president. Murdoch didn’t even look up from his soup, according to three people who independently shared the story. ‘You have to be prepared to be rapped up badly,’ Murdoch replied, using an expression for taking some knocks.”
“Kushner became close to Murdoch after he purchased The New York Observer in 2006. An improbable friendship blossomed between the octogenarian mogul and the 30-something publishing parvenu, with Murdoch and Wendi even taking Kushner and Ivanka on vacation in the Caribbean on Murdoch’s yacht. After Murdoch’s divorce in 2013, Kushner, who was also in the real estate business, helped him find a decorator for his new bachelor apartment. Ivanka was one of five individuals designated to oversee the trust for Murdoch and Wendi’s two daughters, which held $300 million in stock in News Corp and 21st Century Fox.” [NYTimes]
HOLLYWOOD — Justice Department Warns Academy Over Potential Oscar Rule Changes Threatening Netflix — by Ted Johnson: “According to a letter obtained by Variety, the chief of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, wrote to AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson on March 21 to express concerns that new rules would be written ‘in a way that tends to suppress competition.'” [Variety]
TALK OF THE TOWN — L.A. Jr. Kings coaches and players suspended after reported anti-Semitic remarks are heard on video — by Helene Elliott: “Fifteen players and three coaches of a Los Angeles-based youth hockey team were suspended and their actions are being investigated by the California Amateur Hockey Assn. after a video was posted to a social media site in which one player performed a Nazi salute and others reportedly were heard to make what sounded like anti-Semitic comments. The video was posted on March 9, the night before the Jr. Kings were scheduled to face the Jr. Ducks in the championship game of the Pacific district hockey tournament in Las Vegas.” [LATimes]
SPORTS BLINK — Chaim Bloom’s Diamond Life — by Yair Rosenberg: “When you walk into the office of Chaim Bloom, the senior vice president of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays, one of the first things that stands out is a large jar of gefilte fish… As Bloom explains, the fish is a holdover from Passover circa 2006-2007. Thanks to the holiday’s dietary restrictions, Bloom subsists throughout on jars of store-bought gefilte fish that he brings to the office. That year, one of the team’s longtime employees was passing through and asked about the stuff. Did Bloom like it? The man inquired dubiously. ‘I said, ‘No, I actually think it’s sort of gross, but it’s just kind of what you do,’’ Bloom recalled… Bloom promptly offered his interlocutor a taste, who declined. ‘He said, ‘No way, that sounds terrible.’’ Then, however, came the challenge: ‘He said, ‘I’ll tell you what, if we win the World Series, I’ll eat that jar of gefilte fish.’‘ [Tablet]
DERMER’S PRO DAY — Vikings, Wilf Family Host Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. — by Lindsey Young: “Ambassador Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, was hosted at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center Monday afternoon by Vikings leadership, including Owner/President Mark Wilf. Ambassador Dermer was given a tour of the state-of-the-art facility… Ambassador Dermer also spent time with Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman, and he received a behind-the-scenes look at the Vikings Draft Room, locker room and Indoor Practice Facility, where the former quarterback even took the opportunity to throw a few passes. ‘He still has a pretty good arm – he threw a nice spiral,’ Wilf said.” [Vikings]
SCENE LAST NIGHT IN TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended a Salute to Israel event organized by Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA and Israel Bonds at the Westin Harbour Castle in downtown Toronto. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who was scheduled to be the event’s guest speaker, cut short his Canada trip after his wife’s medical condition suddenly deteriorated. [Pic]
BIRTHDAYS: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, he held a series of escalating posts at The New York Times from 1952 until 2000, including as executive editor (1986-1994), Max Frankel turns 89… Democratic political strategist, campaign manager, field director and consultant, founder in 2014 of GenderAvenger, a campaign to promote gender equality in public forums, Gina Glantz turns 76… Member of the Los Angeles City Council since 2009, he was previously a three-term member of the California State Assembly (2000-2006), Paul Koretz turns 64… Director of the Strategic Studies Program at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University, contributing editor of The Atlantic, Eliot A. Cohen turns 63… Singer, songwriter and music producer, originally recording music for children on the Disney Channel, more recently producing and performing Jewish-themed songs, Craig Reid Taubman turns 61… Jazz pianist, arranger and composer, best known for his film and television scores (he has scored over 50 movies and 300 television episodes), James Gelfand turns 60… Rabbi, author, speaker and dean at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, Bradley Shavit Artson turns 60…
CEO of Phase 2 Media since 2012, he is the former Chairman of the Fox Television Entertainment Group (1999-2004), Sandy Grushow turns 59… Member of the Knesset for Likud, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Minister of Environmental Protection, Ze’ev Elkin turns 48… Executive director of public affairs at Jewish United Fund – Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, he was previously the Midwest regional director of AIPAC, Daniel Goldwin turns 48… Award-winning Israeli classical pianist who currently lives in NYC, Ran Dank turns 37… Television and film actress (active 1996-2010), Amanda Bynes turns 33… Actress, comedian, singer, writer, producer and songwriter, Rachel Bloom turns 32… Washington correspondent for Israel’s Kan 11 and author at Moment Magazine, Nathan Guttman… Professional tennis player currently on the WTA Tour, she defeated Serena Williams at the Auckland Classic in 1-2017, Madison Brengle turns 29… Product marketing manager at Sentry and tech entrepreneur, Eva Sasson turns 27… Publishing strategist Harry Z. Cohen turns 26…