Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: January 1, 2019

Trump now ‘positively considering’ Israel’s request to slow down US withdrawal from Syria; Israeli military intelligence chief sees possible threat from Iraq as Iran’s clout grows

This October. 20, 2017 file photo, by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows Iran's Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri with binoculars, as he visits senior Iranian military officers in the northern province of Aleppo, Syria.  (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)
This October. 20, 2017 file photo, by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows Iran's Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri with binoculars, as he visits senior Iranian military officers in the northern province of Aleppo, Syria. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

Tell your friends to sign up for the Daily Kickoff here or for early 7AM access via Debut Inbox

Ed note: Happy New Year. Hope you’re having a fantastic holiday! We’re back to our regular publishing schedule. 

WELCOME TO THE TEAM — As reported in Politico Playbook this morning, Adam Rubenstein is joining Jewish Insider as Executive Editor. Adam was most recently a reporter and editor at The Weekly Standard. In a recent NYTimes column about the closing of The Standard, David Brooks noted: “Amazingly talented young writers were recruited like Adam Rubenstein.” We’re super excited to have Adam join us. More to come!

WHILE WE WERE AWAY — Following his announcement of a U.S. withdrawal from Syria, President Trump said during a surprise visit to Iraq that Israel is “doing very well defending themselves,” citing “4.5 billion dollars a year” in U.S. military aid… The State Department later released a statement saying “The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against Iranian regional actions.”… Saudi Arabia’s King Salman ordereda Cabinet shakeup, including naming a new foreign minister, following the fallout over Jamal Khashoggi’s killing… Many of the new appointees are trusted associates of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman…

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters during a visit to Brazil that he meets with “a lot” of Muslim and Arab leaders, “all the time.”… The Israeli leader declined to say whether he will visit Riyadh in 2019 or with which Arab leader he would meet next publicly… Netanyahu also said that the White House won’t present Trump’s peace plan before April… Incoming Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro assured Netanyahu on Sunday that the Brazilian embassy move to Jerusalem is “not a question of if, it’s just a question of when.”…

McClatchy reported last Thursday that a mobile phone traced to President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016… Cohen denied the report… Meanwhile, Hollywood is chasing Cohen for a storyteller movie… Two Maryland teenagers pleaded guilty to writing racist and Nazi graffiti on their Glenelg High School in Howard County, Maryland over the summer…

DRIVING THE DAY — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to discuss the U.S. withdrawal from Syria with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while the two are attending the inauguration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia, Brazil.

National Security Advisor John Bolton plans to travel to Israel and Turkey next week to address the “next phase of the fight against ISIS, as the US begins to bring troops home from Syria.” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) suggestedon Sunday that Trump has been persuaded to slow down the pullout from Syria and that Graham felt “a lot better” about it after having lunch with Trump. Trump was “worried about Iranian influence and the potential dangers to Israel from having a superhighway from Beirut to Tehran in terms of delivering weapons into Lebanon,” Graham told reporters outside the White House.

Trump is now “positively considering” Israel’s request to slow down the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, a senior Israeli source said on Monday. According to a report, during his trip to Iraq last week, Trump privately told the commander of American forces in Iraq and Syria, Lt. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, that the military could have several months to complete a safe and orderly withdrawal. In a series of tweets Monday morning, Trump used the term “slowly” in defending his decision as simply following through with a campaign promise.

JI READERS REACT — FDD’s Jonathan Schanzer emails: “Israeli officials are obviously concerned about how a rapid withdrawal might provide Iran with an immediate opening to expand its military plans in the region. In light of this, a slower, coordinated and well-planned withdrawal would probably resonate inside the Kiriya (Israel’s military headquarters). Interestingly, some in Israel view Trump’s withdrawal announcement, however mistaken and misguided, as a blessing in disguise for Israel. As Trump calls upon allies to shoulder more of the military burden, Israel gains a green light to operate even more freely against Iran. So, a phased and deliberate withdrawal, if there must be one, seems wise and beneficial for the U.S.-Israel alliance.”

JINSA’s Michael Makovsky: “If indeed the U.S. is considering a slower withdrawal from Syria, that would be most welcome, but there’s already been significant damage to U.S. credibility since the initial announcement, with the Kurds already turning to Assad for protection against Turkey. We should be bolstering our support for the Syrian Kurds and offer at least air protection if we withdraw ground forces. Moreover, we should be elevating, augmenting and accelerating our military support for Israel, including by front-loading the 10-year MOU defense aid, as Israel is on the front line in rolling back Iranian aggression, which serves vital U.S. interests, and to prepare for a growing conflict with Iran.”

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — Israeli military intelligence chief sees possible threat from Iraq as Iran’s clout grows — by Dan Williams: “Iraq is under growing influence of the (covert Iranian foreign operations unit) Qods Force and Iran,” Major-General Tamir Hayman, the chief of Israeli military intelligence chief, told a conference in Tel Aviv. With U.S. President Donald Trump signaling he sought to disengage from the region, Hayman said, the Iranians may “see Iraq as a convenient theater for entrenchment, similar to what they did in Syria, and to use it as a platform for a force build-up that could also threaten the State of Israel.” [Reuters

Dan Shapiro writes… “Trump Leaves Israel in the Lurch: Something about the Trump style appeals to an Israeli sense of machismo, an appreciation for direct, gut-level expressions of toughness, such a contrast from the more analytical Obama… Obama, too, was criticized by Israelis for withdrawing troops from Iraq, for failing to strike Syria in response to chemical weapons use, and for his perceived reluctance to use force against Iran’s nuclear program. But Trump, the gever-gever (a real man), Israelis hoped, would reverse the trend. Instead, Trump is doubling down on reducing U.S. involvement in the Middle East in an even more brutal fashion… America’s friends, including Israel, feel a chill wind at such talk.” [TheAtlantic]

Watch — Dore Gold, former Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explains why Israel sees the U.S. withdrawal from Syria in a larger regional context — the strategic struggle between Israel and Iran over a post-war Syria. [Video]

AT THE UN — U.S. and Israel exit UN cultural agency, claiming bias — by Thomas Adamson: “The United States and Israel officially quit the U.N.’s educational, scientific and cultural agency at the stroke of midnight, the culmination of a process triggered more than a year ago amid concerns that the organization fosters anti-Israel bias. The withdrawal is mainly procedural yet serves a new blow to UNESCO, co-founded by the U.S. after World War II to foster peace.” 

“UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay took up her post just after Trump announced the pullout. Azoulay, who has Jewish and Moroccan heritage, has presided over the launch of a Holocaust education website and the U.N.’s first educational guidelines on fighting anti-Semitism — initiatives that might be seen as responding to U.S. and Israeli concerns… The efforts weren’t enough to encourage the U.S. and Israel to reconsider their decision to quit… The State Department couldn’t comment because of the U.S. government shutdown.”[ABCNews]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Netanyahu’s battle for survival: “Mr. Netanyahu hopes that a fourth straight electoral victory will shield him from calls that he steps down if he is indicted… The three-month campaign is likely to be vicious. In the end, Mr. Netanyahu will probably win a fifth term and become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. But victory is just the first step in his battle for political survival.” [Economist Why 2019 Could Be Make-or-Break Year for Netanyahu [Bloomberg]

— “The Netanyahu of early 2019 is more isolated than ever before… For someone who arrived in Israeli politics from America with a vision of the American White House – with its large numbers of aides, wings and staff – today he runs the country with a small team, which numbers about the same as that of an average-sized Tel Aviv restaurant.” [Haaretz Netanyahu says he won’t resign if summoned for a hearing pending indictment [ToI]

ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET — Labor Party Chair Avi Gabbay announced the end of his partnership with Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni on live TV… Following Gabbay’s announcement, Livni thanked supporters in a tweet, vowing a “focus on the important national challenges before us.”… Ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked announced on Saturdaythe formation of a new right-wing party that will compete with Netanyahu’s Likud and their former Bayit Yehudi party… Netanyahu criticized the move, saying it could “shatter the right bloc to pieces.”…

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon tweeted on Sunday that he will remain at the UN rather than return home to rejoin the Likud Party’s list for the upcoming Knesset… and MK Michael Oren announced he is quitting the Kulanu Party, but has not made a final decision about his political future… Meanwhile, former UN Ambassador Ron Prosor is reportedly being wooedby several centrist parties to join their list… and Housing Minister Yoav Galant quit his post and resigned from the Knesset on Monday to run in the Likud primaries…

DRIVING THE CONVO — New York Times profile of Representative-Elect Ilhan Omar, who is expected to be sworn in on Thursday as one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, drew a strong reaction on Twitter with a statement that Omar’s support for the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement “is making Jewish leaders nervous.” Later on, the author notes Omar’s clarification about her support for BDS after the election “has left some Jewish leaders feeling betrayed.”

Bari Weiss tweets“It isn’t hard to understand why Ilhan Omar’s story inspires many. The reason Jews are “nervous” about her is because she tweeted: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

Philip Klein writes“The idea of there being a conspiracy theory in which Jews exert some sort of mystical powers of control over events to the detriment of the world has been at the heart of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories for years. Yet the Times decided to completely ignore this, perhaps because doing so might actually show that Omar critics have a point, and that they’re not simply motivated by racism or fear of somebody different… This is just the latest demonstration that the Times is perfectly comfortable excusing anti-Semitism as long as it’s coming from the Left and masked as mere criticism of Israel.”

Batya Ungar-Sargon‏: “Yo NYTimes, Ilhan Omar is not “making Jewish leaders nervous” because she supports BDS but because she made an anti-Semitic comment about Israel and ignored activists and Jewish journalists who tried to ask about it – which your reporter didn’t in this puff piece.”

2020 WATCH — Sen. Elizabeth Warren says she will seek the presidency in 2020 — by Annie Linskey and Matt Viser: “Warren’s announcement that she was establishing an exploratory committee — the legal precursor to a run — came as other candidates, including several of her fellow senators, made final preparations for their own announcements, some of which are expected in days.” [WashPost]

— Elizabeth Warren would have to play ‘catch-up’ in competitive Democratic presidential race — by Mark Gollom: “Why is she announcing now?” asked Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “Because she wants to get in front of Bernie Sanders. She wants to try to be the controller of the left.” [CBCNews]

Bloomberg says he’ll decide on presidential run in early 2019 — by Tamar Lapin: “There’s no rush to do it. Everybody wants to know what you’re going to do, and the bottom line is I’m not sure yet,” the billionaire businessman told NBC’s “Meet the Press”… “Do I think I could be a good president? Yes. I’m not the only one that could be a good president.” [NYPostTheHill]

Wall Street Journal editorial… “Take the Over on Bloomberg: Our choice for the most amusing headline so far comes from our friends at CNBCthis week: ‘Mike Bloomberg prepared to spend at least $100 million on a 2020 campaign for president if he decides to run.’ Is that all? Mr. Bloomberg spent more than $100 million on his last race for mayor of New York… Our guess is that, if he does run for the Democratic nomination, he is likely to spend closer to $500 million or perhaps $1 billion… If someone asks you to bet on how much Mr. Bloomberg will spend if he does run for President, take the over.”[WSJ• Bloomberg Ready to Put 0.2% of His Money Where His Mouth Is[VanityFair]

** Good Tuesday 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Leon Black’s Apollo Global Management’s Arconic bid hung up on credit worries [NYPost• U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman Was Tricked into Investing in an Israeli Winery, Lawsuit Alleges [Calcalist• Model Bar Refaeli faces pre-indictment hearing on tax charges[Globes• Israel’s Ramon Airport near Red Sea resort of Eilat to open January 22 [Reuters• Real estate firms flocked to Israel in search of cheap debt. Now the market’s turning [TheRealDeal]

PROFILE — Israel’s Little-Known Central Banker Lifts Veil on Priorities — by Ivan Levingston and Jonathan Ferziger: “The Bank of Israel’s new governor wasted no time laying out his priorities. At his appointment ceremony, Amir Yaron ticked off goals including measured rate rises, quicker inflation and low-key intervention in the foreign exchange market. His agenda came as a welcome signpost in a country that knew little about his macroeconomic thinking: Unlike predecessor Karnit Flug, who spent much of her career at the bank, the Israeli-born Yaron had lived in the U.S. for more than two decades, until just weeks ago as a finance professor at the Wharton School of business in Pennsylvania.” [Bloomberg]

Israel Is Undergoing A Female Banking Revolution, Russak-Aminoach Leads The Way — by Joe Wallen: “As the CEO of Bank Leumi since 2012 – now Israel’s largest bank with a market share of 30% – [Rakefet] Russak-Aminoach has much to be happy about. When Russak-Aminoach, 52, took over Leumi the bank had been enduring dwindling net profits, falling from $495 million in 2011 to $249 million in 2012. However, thanks to a policy of embracing and incorporating technology in order to disrupt traditional banking, Russak-Aminoach is credited with reviving the bank’s fortunes — net profit increased to an incredible $977 million in 2017.” [The Israeli] “chutzpah” mentality saw Russak-Aminoach launch what is considered to be her greatest achievement to date: Pepper. Pepper is Israel’s first digital-only bank which can be operated entirely through the consumer’s mobile phone.” [Forbes]

Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Share Why They Give — by Dave Ghose: “Jay is a passionate guide. He talks with pride about a 13th-century Spanish Hebrew Bible he recently loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Standing before a model of the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel, he details plans for the new museum, which will house nearly 25,000 Dead Sea Scrolls fragments when it opens in Jerusalem in the next couple of years. “It’ll be the most important archaeological museum in the world,” he says. The couple’s generosity benefits a dizzying number of organizations and programs in Columbus and around the world. And despite the size of those contributions, Jay and Jeanie still manage to keep a relatively low profile. “They’re doing it to benefit other people, and it begins and ends right there,” says Rabbi Gedaliah Zlotowitz, who runs ArtScroll, a nonprofit Jewish publishing house in Brooklyn that is one of the Schottensteins’ biggest beneficiaries.” [ColumbusMonthly]

TALK OF THE TOWN — From a bar mitzvah to an outpouring of global support — the healing continues at Tree of Life — by Peter Smith: “On the Saturday morning of Dec. 15, a teenage boy stood up in front of his congregation for his bar mitzvah, reading in Hebrew a passage in which the biblical Joseph provides a welcome to his once-treacherous brothers… “It was the first happy occasion” such as a bar mitzvah or wedding since the massacre, said congregation president Sam Schachner… The service also included its moments of recognition for the ongoing grief: Relatives of two of the victims were among those who [received] “aliyah” during the service… At the Shabbat service the night before the bar mitzvah… Rabbi Jeffrey Myers held a “show and tell” of the latest signs of support pouring in from all over the world.”[PostGazette]

A millionaire paid Jews to move to a small town in Alabama. Now, a couple struggle with their choice — by Julie Zauzmer: “Lisa Priddle wonders why she is trying so hard, why she is prepping and cooking and buying Hanukkah dreidels for people in the small Southern city that she and her husband moved to because a Jewish millionaire paid them to come build up the Jewish community there. Given an offer of up to $50,000, she and Kenny picked up their lives and came to Alabama, but now they must think seriously about the anti-Semitism they’ve experienced.” [WashPost]

New San Francisco Community Space Sees Protests Because Owner Is A ‘Zionist’ — by Aiden Pink: “Manny’s, a new business in San Francisco’s Mission District, is part cafe, part bookstore, part political event hall. Owner Manny Yekutiel, a 29-year-old rising star in the world of liberal political organizing, calls it a “civic social gathering space.” It has hosted incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi… activists with Black Lives Matter — and on the sidewalk outside, protesters [are] upset because Yekutiel is a “Zionist gentrifer.” “Zionists out of the Mission!” one marcher yelled on Wednesday, Dec. 26, as about 20 members of the Lucy Parsons Project and allied groups gathered outside Manny’s.” [Forward]

ACROSS THE SEA — Europe’s Right Wing Woos a New Audience: Jewish Voters — by Bojan Pancevski: “Across Europe, anti-immigration parties with ties to far-right movements have stepped up efforts to recruit supporters in the continent’s small Jewish community, often drawing on perceptions in that community about anti-Semitism among Muslims. Such concerns are widespread. A recent European Union survey found that 41% of Jews in Germany who had experienced anti-Semitic harassment blamed Muslim extremists, while 20% saw the perpetrators as having right-wing political views and 16% saw them as having left-wing views.” [WSJ]

SPORTS BLINK — The Self-Described Jets Owner-in-Waiting Will Tailgate for Now — by Zach Schonbrun: “The entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, a fan of the Jets, would love to own the team someday. There are just two problems: The team isn’t for sale, and he isn’t rich enough. So here’s the plan…” [NYTimes]

New York Hot Dog Rabbi to Make Qatar Kosher for World Cup — by Jonathan Ferziger: “The rabbi who brought kosher hot dogs to New York baseball stadiums wants to help the Persian Gulf state of Qatar host Jewish fans with food they can eat at soccer’s 2022 World Cup. Rabbi Marc Schneier… says he’s been asked by Hassan Al-Thawadi — secretary-general of the organizing committee for the world’s most popular sports event — to advise him on hosting thousands of Jewish fans expected at the games.” [Bloomberg]

HAPPY 2019 — New Year’s Fete From Russia Irks Some in Israel: ‘It’s Not a Jewish Holiday’ — by Isabel Kershner: “The New Year’s Eve that many secular Israelis celebrate at clubs and restaurants on Dec. 31 has long been referred to as “Sylvester,” because it coincides with a traditional European feast day for a saint with that name who served as a pope in the 4th century and was considered anti-Semitic. For some Jews of Eastern European origin, the date connotes a time when local non-Jews would get drunk and carry out pogroms… Three years ago, a group of Russian-Israeli activists introduced an “Israeli Novy God” campaign on social media, producing humorous videos showing ordinary Israelis that the holiday was not what they thought it was — a clandestine religious ritual or an excuse to drink heavily — and offering to host them at Novy God gatherings… Year by year, Novy God does appear to have become more widely accepted.” [NYTimes]

DESSERT — Israeli Algae Felafel Wins First Prize in Feed-the-World Contest: “Meet the algalafel, which won first prize in the EIT Food Project (European Knowledge and Innovation Community), created by students at the Biotechnology and Food Engineering Faculty of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology… The algalafel is a normal deep-fried ball of ground chickpeas but made of batter enriched with spirulina, which is extraordinarily protein-rich.”[Haaretz

REMEMBERING — Israel bids farewell to author and peace advocate Amos Oz — by Aron Heller: “Israel’s embattled peace movement bid a final farewell Monday to one of its most prominent figures, the renowned author Amos Oz… Hundreds of his admirers, including dozens of current and former liberal politicians, leading stage actors and other cultural figures, packed into the famed Tzavta cultural center in Tel Aviv to pay their final respects to an Israeli icon whose writings and life story have come to symbolize a bygone era of pioneering Israeli intellectualism and moderation. In a career spanning over half a century, Oz published over 35 books, including 13 novels, as well as children’s books and collections of short stories, and hundreds of articles on literary and political topics… Oz passed away on Friday at the age of 79 after a battle with cancer.” [AP]

— “In a 2009 interview with The New York Times, he said he marked the separation between his political and literary writing by using pens with two colors of ink, one blue and the other black, that sat on his desk. “I never mix them up,” he said of the pens. “One is to tell the government to go to hell. The other is to tell stories.” [NYTimes]

French Resistance hero who saved hundreds of Jewish children dies aged 108 — by Alexandra Topping: “Georges Loinger used all his skill and cunning – and a large dash of chutzpah – to rescue Jewish children from deportation and near-certain death during the second world war. The French Resistance hero, who has died at the age of 108, would set up ball games for children along the Swiss border in France. Having trained the children to run like the wind, he would throw the ball over the border and tell them to chase after it and then keep running… While serving with the French army, he was taken prisoner by German forces in 1940 and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Germany. But as a result of his blond hair and blue eyes, his captors did not realize he was Jewish. He managed to escape.” [TheGuardian]

BIRTHDAYS: German-born historian, noted for his expertise on WWII, professor emeritus at UNC-Chapel Hill since 1974, Gerhard Weinberg turns 91… Yale Law graduate who went on to direct many films, documentaries and theater productions, winner of a MacArthur genius fellowship, Frederick Wiseman turns 89… Austrian-born psychiatrist and medical researcher, president and vice-chancellor of Concordia University in Montreal, Frederick Lowy turns 86… 49th richest American, businessman and philanthropist, Ronald Perelman turns 76… Former US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy (2008-2009), then founding executive director of the George W. Bush Institute, a public policy development institution, Ambassador James K. Glassman turns 72… German-born, graduate of Harvard and then Georgetown Law, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Max Richtman turns 72… Author, public speaker and head of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians, Rabbi Daniel Lapin turns 72…

Tunisian-born, now Los Angeles-based fashion designer and CEO of ZappLight, he was the chairman and CEO of the global fashion house BCBG Max Azria Group, Max Azria turns 70… Senior US Senator from New Jersey since 2006, re-elected in 2012 and 2018, Bob Menendez turns 65… Attorney and principal of Dupont Circle Communications, a firm assisting nonprofit organizations, Margot Friedman turns 56… Managing member of Cruiser Capital Advisors, he is a member of the Hillel International Board of Governors, Keith M. Rosenbloom turns 50… Director of operations at Simpler Horizons Insurance, Elka Soussana turns 43… President and founder of Ampersand Strategies, a D.C.-based communications and consulting firm, he was previously AIPAC’s Mid-Atlantic regional political director, Josh Nanbergturns 45… Principal of Paul Revere Public Relations, Nachman Aaron Troodler turns 45… Co-founder and CEO of BuzzFeed, Jonah Peretti turns 45… Director of Jewish and Israel philanthropy at the Paul E. Singer Foundation, Daniel Bonner turns 29…

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed