Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: January 14, 2019

Trump threatens Turkey with economic devastation if it attacks Kurdish fighters; Inside the attempt to derail Trump’s erratic Syria withdrawal

Illustrative: Fighters from the Kurdish women's protection units (YPJ) attend the funeral of an Arab fighter of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the town of Tal Tamr in the countryside of Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province on December 21, 2018. (Delil Souleiman/AFP)
Illustrative: Fighters from the Kurdish women's protection units (YPJ) attend the funeral of an Arab fighter of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the town of Tal Tamr in the countryside of Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province on December 21, 2018. (Delil Souleiman/AFP)

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

SPOTLIGHT — Adam Neumann, the salesman-guru out to prove that We works —  by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson: “One property executive who knows Mr. Neumann describes him as the best salesman he has met, but argues that WeWork has too little proprietary technology to be valued as a tech company… “You can say all that stuff but he did it and other people didn’t,” answers Lloyd Blankfein, senior chairman of Goldman Sachs, another WeWork investor. “He’s getting huge financing from people who don’t give ice in the winter.” Noah Wintroub, vice-chairman of investment banking at JPMorgan, has seen Mr. Neumann split opinion since WeWork had just one building. “People were skeptical… but once you get in a room with him [and] listen to his vision, you get attracted,” he says.”

“Mr. Blankfein invited Mr. Neumann to speak at a Jewish charity dinner last year and recalls him explaining that he began observing the Sabbath after asking his rabbi for help in controlling his ego as he became a billionaire. Mr. Neumann is sincere about his spirituality, Mr. Blankfein says, but “there was a practical side… It wasn’t simple piety; it was kind of almost a lifestyle. A holistic thing, not a bifurcated life.” Mr. Neumann is selling that vision to the likes of Mr. Son: of a future in which work is so uplifting that it is a lifestyle; where all the lonely people form a community, moving seamlessly between the shared workplaces and homes. He calls WeWork “a capitalist kibbutz,” like the collective in the Negev desert to which he moved after his parents divorced.” [FinancialTimes]

DRIVING THE DAY — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in New York today ahead of a ceremony to assume the chairmanship of the largest bloc of developing countries at the United Nations on Tuesday. The bloc, known as the Group of 77, chose “Palestine,” which the UN General Assembly granted permanent observer status in 2012, to replace Egypt as its next leader last July.

— MK Tzipi Livni, former Opposition Leader and head of HaTnua Pary told AIPAC leaders in Tel Aviv yesterday that “an immediate dialogue with the Palestinian Authority can be opened even if it is primarily economic.” [JPost]

Elliott Abrams writes… “Abbas Celebrates 14th Anniversary of His Four-Year Term: As Abbas marks his anniversary in power, those who had hoped for positive political evolution in the Palestinian territories can only mourn the way he has governed, especially in the last decade.” [CFR]

TALK OF THE REGION — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announcedover the weekend that the U.S. will host a summit next month in Poland to counter Iran’s regional influence and “focus on Middle East stability and peace.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who also serves as Foreign Minister — was reportedly invited to attend the February 13-14 meeting, known as the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East, along with diplomats from Gulf Arab states.

Iran called on Poland to withdraw its sponsorship of the conference, saying it “can’t wash the shame: while Iran [under the Shah] saved Poles in WWII, it now hosts desperate anti-Iran circus.” The Iranian Foreign Ministry also summoned Poland’s Charge d’Affaires Wojciech Unolt on Sunday.

During a visit to Doha on Sunday, Pompeo pledged to renew attempts to resolve the standoff between Qatar and Saudi Arabia that has complicated the Trump administration’s efforts to isolate Iran. Sec. Pompeo met with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh today.

FDD’s Mark Dubowitz emails us: “The Warsaw summit is an important step in further cementing Arab-Israeli ties against the Islamic Republic of Iran. The mullahs face a Middle East that is increasingly united against their malign and destructive activities.”

REPORT — White House Sought Options to Strike Iran — by Dion Nissenbaum: “President Trump’s National Security Council asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran… after militants fired three mortars into Baghdad’s sprawling diplomatic quarter, home to the U.S. Embassy, on a warm night in early September… But they triggered unusual alarm in Washington, where John Bolton conducted a series of meetings to discuss a forceful American response, including what many saw as the unusual request for options to strike Iran… The Pentagon complied with the National Security Council’s request to develop options for striking Iran… But it isn’t clear if the proposals were provided to the White House.”

“During a trip to Israel earlier this month, Mr. Bolton suggested that Mr. Trump was willing to strike Iran if he thought Tehran was close to developing a nuclear weapon. “The president looks at all his options constantly,” Mr. Bolton said in an interview with talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt that aired on Friday. “On a subject of this seriousness, this is something we coordinate very closely with Israel on, but for reasons I’m sure you can understand, we have to keep our cards close to the vest.” [WSJ] • Mattis had “deep concerns” about White House request for Iran strike options [Axios]

WHY IT MATTERS — “The news of Mr. Bolton’s effort to find a way to strike back at Iran comes as evidence is rising that Tehran is considering — or at least threatening — to leave the nuclear agreement. The chief of Iran’s nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, an M.I.T.-educated physicist who helped negotiate the deal, said on Sunday that Tehran had begun “preliminary activities for designing” a process for enrichment of uranium.” [NYTimesAP

— Jonathan Swan reports“Of all the disagreements that drove President Trump and then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis apart, one of the most perilous had to do with blowing up Iranian boats. “Why don’t we sink them?” the president would ask… Trump repeatedly asked his national security team for plans to blow up Iranian “fast boats” in the Persian Gulf during the first year of his presidency.”

BEHIND THE SCENES — Inside the attempt to derail Trump’s erratic Syria withdrawal — by Anne Gearan, Josh Dawsey and John Hudson: “Since Trump’s abrupt Syria announcement last month, a tug of war with allies and his advisers has roiled the national security apparatus over how, and whether, to execute a pullout. Netanyahu spoke to Trump two days before the president’s announcement and again a day afterward… Even Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who liked the policy, was concerned it could not be safely executed so quickly… Some U.S. national security aides hoped that Netanyahu could help persuade Trump to slow the withdrawal, even if he went ahead with a planned announcement that week.” [WashPost]

Trump Threatens Turkey With Economic Devastation If It Attacks Kurdish Fighters — by Dominique Mosbergen: “President Donald Trump has threatened Turkey, a NATO ally, with economic devastation if it attacks U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria after American troops withdraw from the country. His warning was met with sharp rebuke from Ankara… Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin suggested in a tweet that the U.S. was making a “fatal mistake.” [HuffPost]

ON THE GROUND — Netanyahu: Israel struck Iranian weapons depot at Damascus airport — by Jack Guy, Michael Schwartz andOren Liebermann: “In a rare acknowledgment of Israeli operations in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country’s air force struck Syria over the weekend. Speaking at Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said: “In the last 36 hours, the air force has attacked Iranian warehouses with Iranian weapons in the Damascus International Airport. The total sum of the last attacks prove that we are more determined than ever to act against Iran in Syria exactly as we promised.” [CNNWSJ] • Israel says all Hezbollah cross-border tunnels found [AFP]

Bret Stephens interviewed IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who is stepping down after four years at the helm of the Israel Defense Forces: “We operated under a certain threshold until two-and-a-half years ago,” Eisenkot explains, referring to Israel’s initial policy of mainly striking weapons shipments destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon… In January 2017 Eisenkot obtained the government’s unanimous consent for a change in the rules of the game. Israeli attacks became near-daily events. In 2018 alone, the air force dropped a staggering 2,000 bombs… “We have complete intelligence superiority in this area. We enjoy complete aerial superiority. We have strong deterrence and we have the justification to act.” [NYTimes]

— Pummel the bases, miss the men — Israel’s invisible war in Syria — by Anshel Pfeffer: “Eisenkot acknowledged for the first time… that Israel had supplied rebel groups in the border area with light weapons “for self-defense.” [TheTimes

TOP TALKER — Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration [WashPost]

ON THE HILL — The International Crisis of Donald Trump — by Susan Glasser: “On Wednesday morning, Eliot Engel, the Democratic congressman from New York who has just taken over the chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sank into an oversized leather chair in his office and told me that his first act as chairman will be to create a new subcommittee devoted to investigating President Trump…  “We’re the only check left,” Tom Malinowski, a newly sworn-in Democratic congressman from New Jersey, told me the other day. Malinowski, a former Assistant Secretary of State in the Obama Administration, hopes to land a seat on Engel’s Foreign Affairs Committee.” [NewYorker]

The House of Representatives approved the bipartisan Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act in a floor vote of 411-1 on Friday. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) voted against. The legislation, re-introduced by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Brad Schneider (D-IL), would upgrade the status of the envoy on anti-Semitism to an ambassadorship requiring Senate confirmation. It would also impose a legal limit — within 90 days of enactment — on the time in which the administration can continue to leave the position without a designated appointee. The Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism has ceased operations since April 28, 2017, and the position has been vacant since Trump took office on January 20.

HEARD YESTERDAY — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), during an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation yesterday promised to take action against Rep. Steve King (R-IA) over his recent “white supremacist” remarks: “I’ve watched on the other side that they do not take action when their member says something like this. Action will be taken. I’m having a serious conversation with Congressman Steve King on his future and role in this Republican Party.” [Video] • Republicans say Steve King’s ‘stupid,’ ‘racist’ remarks may result in action against him [NBCNews]

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Pushes Democrats to the Left, Whether They Like It or Not — by Shane Goldmacher: “In the two months since her election, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has had the uncanny ability for a first-term member of Congress to push the debate inside the Democratic Party sharply to the left, forcing party leaders and 2020 presidential candidates to grapple with issues that some might otherwise prefer to avoid.” [NYTimes]

— Rep. Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the House Committee on Appropriations, on why she’s publicly embracing Ocasio-Cortez — by Michael Mcauliff: “AOC, I guess we call her,” Lowey said. “I spent an hour with her. She was very thoughtful,” she said… She also regarded Ocasio-Cortez’s social media prowess with a certain amount of wry, grandmotherly humor. “She told me just this morning she has over a million Twitter followers, and she does her own twittering, or tweeting, what do you call it? Twitting, tweeting?” Lowey said.” [NYDailyNews]

Ocasio-Cortez reacted on Twitter to Joe Lieberman saying she’s not the future of the Democratic Party: “New party, who dis?”

— Lieberman ramps up feud with Ocasio-Cortez — by Nikki Schwab: “She just takes us back to the big-spending, big-taxing Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party is not going to succeed that way,” Lieberman told Fox News Channel’s Maria Bartiromo on “Sunday Morning Futures.” … Lieberman called Ocasio-Cortez’s reaction on Twitter “kind of silly.” [NYPost]

HEARD THE OTHER DAY — President Trump during a roundtable discussion with state, local, and community leaders on border security in the Cabinet Room on Friday: “With Israel, for many years, everybody campaigning for President said they were going to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. This went on, as you know, for many, many years… And I said the same thing —  same words, same campaign. But I did it and got it done, and people are very happy. Jewish population and evangelicals — unbelievably happy. I did it… And I compare [building the border wall] to the embassy because they talked about it for 45, 50 years, and we got it done. We’re going to get this done, too.” [CSPAN]

2020 WATCH — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is expected to formally announce her bid for the White House this week… Gabbard said that “war and peace” will be a central issue in her campaign… She has already come under scrutiny for working for an anti-gay group that backed conversion therapy… Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro officially announced a presidential run on Saturday… Bernie Sanders is staffing up ahead of a potential 2020 campaign… Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is planning a trip to Iowa in the coming weeks, signaling a possible White House run… Mike Bloomberg told reporters in Texas on Friday that he’d self-fund his campaign if he runs for president… NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio won’t rule out a presidential bid…

Wall Street’s Democratic Money Guys Are Already Thinking About Their 2020 Bets — by William Cohan: “I have chatted with many Obama supporters who tell me Beto [O’Rourke] is a rock star, and if he decides to enter the race, I would be excited to meet him,” said Robert Wolf, the former chairman and C.E.O. of the U.S. arm of UBS, the big Swiss bank, and the founder of 32 Advisors, his own investment boutique. Wolf, who rose to national prominence a decade ago for his financial and intellectual support of a then-obscure candidate named Barack Obama, has since become perhaps the most sought-after Democratic executive on Wall Street… “I have been friends with many of the potential candidates,” Wolf said. “I’ve already met with a bunch of them or talked to them about their plans to enter.” In Wolf’s estimation, there could be as many as 25 different hopefuls on the Democratic side.” [VanityFair]

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Disney CEO Bob Iger Misses Out on $60 Million Bonus, But Still Collects Record Payday [Bloomberg] • Blackstone hires General Atlantic’s Jon Korngold to launch new growth-investing business[WSJ] • Shari Redstone is pressing on with her plan to merge CBS and Viacom[VarietyWSJ] • Mobileye CEO Outlines Israel’s Robotaxi Future[Calcalist] • Israel drone maker Aeronautics gets $232 million buyout offer[Reuters]

Ilan Berman writes… “Israel’s Dangerous Dalliance With China: The larger risks associated with China’s growing investments in the Jewish state, and their implications for Israel’s security as well as its relations with key international partners, haven’t been sufficiently addressed by policy makers in Jerusalem.” [WSJ]

STARTUP NATION —How silicon makes Israel’s desert bloom: “As a child living on Kibbutz Ginosar, in Israel’s north, Ofir Schlam would wake up at dawn to inspect leaves for [pink bollworms]. “They were really hard to find,” he recalls. Spotting the enemy has become much easier. Four years ago, Mr. Schlam co-founded Taranis, a company that uses high-resolution imagery from drones, planes and satellites to diagnose problems in the field—among them bollworms, diseases, dryness and nutrient deficiencies. Investors are joining the effort: in November, Taranis raised $20m.” [Economist]

ON FRIDAY EVENING — Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue announced from the pulpit, “We are disassociating from Women’s March Inc.” The Rabbi noted his congregation will join the 2019 Women’s March On NYC under the auspices of Women’s March Alliance. “As a synagogue, we will not participate in, or endorse, the 2019 D.C. march. Already in 2017, we heard rumblings of troubling accusations of anti-Semitism within and amongst the leadership of the Washington march.”

“We also knew of the intense anti-Israel, anti- Zionist views of at least one of the original organizers, who is also a fierce advocate of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, BDS. But at the time we pushed our discomfort aside. It seemed to us that the greater good was to unite with as many like-minded Americans as possible.” [Video]

SO WHY NOW? “That Tablet piece was very influential,” Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch told JI in a phone interview on Sunday morning. “We heard these rumblings. We heard them early on, but we suppressed them in deference to what we considered the bigger issues threatening our country… But now there are alternatives… And I think it’s important for the Jewish community to realize that the BDS aspect of the leadership of the Women’s March too was very troubling to us. Had there been alternatives just on the BDS issue itself, that would have inclined us to want to participate with the alternatives, leaving aside all of the accusations of associations with figures who are anti-Semitic.”

— On BDS backers now in Congress, Rabbi Hirsch cautioned: “I think the election of Congressional representatives who have expressed sympathy to BDS is a warning sign to the Jewish community that this perspective is encroaching in the liberal camp. I would urge the Jewish community to reach out to them as quick as possible and engage in a dialogue with them. I wouldn’t write off members of Congress from the outset because they hold these views.”

The National Women’s March was rocked by claims of anti-Semitism. Now local marches are grappling with the fallout — by Daniella Silva: “Some local marches have taken pains to differentiate themselves from Women’s March Inc. For example, Women’s March Alliance, a group affiliated with March On that has organized marches in New York, announces on its website that it is not affiliated with Women’s March Inc.”[NBCNews]

Southern Poverty Law Center Quietly Joins the Roster of Big Groups Walking Away from the Women’s March — by Jackie Kucinich: “The Southern Poverty Law Center will not partner with the Women’s March this year… Asked whether the [Louis] Farrakhan connection played a part in the decision not to partner with them, [SPLC spokeswoman Jen] Fuson reiterated that the group had other priorities.” [DailyBeast]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop writes… How Jersey City’s United Rescue, inspired by Israel’s United Hatzalah: Our citizen first-responders may be eating lunch, working or sleeping, but they always keep the United Rescue app handy… Our system is based on United Hatzalah, pioneered in Israel, which deploys a force of volunteers who answer 1,100 calls a day — rescuing about 100 people daily — in a country with a population about the same size as New York City’s. In New York, Hatzalah volunteer ambulances provide a similar rapid response in a few Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods around the city, but on a smaller scale.”[NYPost

LONG READ — The French Burglar Who Pulled Off His Generation’s Biggest Art Heist: “The skilled climber and thief Vjeran Tomic, whom the French press referred to as Spider-Man, has described robbery as an act of imagination — by Jake Halpern: “One of the countries that still adhere to the principle of market overt is Israel. “I would be very shocked if an Israeli court upheld the purchase of art clearly stolen from a museum,”[Derek] Fincham said. “Still, the possibility might have been enough to tempt a buyer to test the court on this matter.” In late December, 2010, as the French police were closing in on Tomic, [Yoni] Birn flew to Tel Aviv. He called [Jean Michel] Corvez. Police officers monitoring Corvez’s phone line recorded an exchange suggesting that he and Birn were arranging a sale… Corvez shared little information with [Vjeran] Tomic. At one point, he told him that he’d lined up a Saudi buyer, but later said that the Saudi had backed out, and that the solution to their problem lay in Israel. Tomic recalled Corvez saying, cryptically, “There’s a Russian Jew who is capable of taking the paintings.” [NewYorker

USEFUL DEPT — The Art of Decision-Making: Your life choices aren’t just about what you want to do; they’re about who you want to be [NewYorker]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — Jon Bon Jovi, Robert Kraft Rock Out To ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ During Patriots-Chargers: “Jon Bon Jovi enjoyed Sunday’s Patriots-Chargers divisional round game in Foxboro with New England owner Robert Kraft, and the duo enjoyed a little sing-along during the fourth quarter. After the Patriots jumped out to a 41-14 lead early in the final frame, Bon Jovi and Kraft were shown on the CBS broadcast singing along to the rocker’s classic Livin’ On A Prayer.” [CBSBoston]

BIRTHDAYS: Chairman emeritus of the publicly traded Empire State Realty Trust, he is the father-in-law of US Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Peter L. Malkin turns 85… Entertainment executive, he served as President and COO of MCA and Universal Studios for over 40 years, Sidney Jay “Sid” Sheinberg turns 84… Washington Nationals baseball fan known as Rubber Chicken Man, he waves a rubber chicken over the Nationals dugout and is one of the few fans for whom Topps has issued a baseball card, Hugh Kaufmanturns 76… Award-winning legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio since 1975, focusing primarily on the US Supreme Court, Nina Totenbergturns 75… Screenwriter, director and producer, best known as co-writer of the films “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Return of the Jedi,” Lawrence Kasdan turns 70… Board certified orthopedic spinal surgeon, inventor and philanthropist, he sold his medical patents to Medtronic in 2005 for $1.35 billion, Gary K. Michelson, M.D. turns 70… Painter, editor, writer and book artist, she taught art reviewing and criticism at the University of Pennsylvania (2012-2018), Susan Bee turns 67… Shaul Saulisbury turns 61…

Member of the Knesset since 2015 for the Likud party, she holds a Ph.D. in criminology, Anat Berko turns 59… Historian, journalist, author, media critic, blogger and educator, he is currently a professor at Brooklyn College and the media columnist for The Nation, Eric Alterman turns 59… AIPAC Board Member, founding member and co-managing partner of LA-based law firm, Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern LLP, Michael L. Tuchin turns 54… Actress best known for her movie roles in the late 1980s in “The Goonies” and “Lucas,” she later became a film producer, Kerri Lee Green turns 52… Staff writer at The New Yorker and a CNN global affairs analyst, she previously served as editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine and editor at The Washington Post and Roll Call, Susan B. Glasser turns 50… Venture capitalist and brother of Michael Dell, one of his start-ups was acquired by Goldman Sachs in 2018 where he is now a partner, Adam R. Dell turns 49… Sales associate in the Montclair, NJ office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, David Freyturns 40… Associate attorney in the Toronto law firm of Zarek Taylor Grossman Hanrahan, Aryeh Samuel… Stephen Panikoff… Alba Farquharson… Barbara Singer-Meis

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