David Friedman in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 16. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Daily Kickoff: Indyk, Shapiro on why Abbas ‘shunning’ David Friedman is a non-issue | Latest Kotel controversy | Dan Gilbert, Detroit’s Shadow Mayor


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DRIVING THE CONVERSATION — “Reports that Trump considering pulling out of peace efforts ‘nonsense,’ US official says” by Yasser Okbi: “President Donald Trump is reportedly weighing whether to pull out of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations following a “tense” meeting with White House senior staff and officials in Ramallah, according to London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat on Saturday… In response, a senior administration official called the report “nonsense.”” [JPost]

“Netanyahu ready to meet Abbas, but not to negotiate” by Uri Savir: “Trump has been advised by his inner circle and by former administration officials with experience in the Middle East peace process to stay out of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Everybody told him that both sides are unwilling to make the necessary compromises… Israel has conveyed to [Jason] Greenblatt that the Prime Minister is ready to participate in a regional strategy meeting in Washington chaired by Trump and also to meet with Abbas. The participation in such a meeting is conditioned on the Palestinian Authority’s taking action to stop incitement to violence and to halt all payments to the families of terrorists and prisoners in Israel… Furthermore, according to this official, while Netanyahu has agreed to restrain settlement expansion, construction will continue both in the Jerusalem area and outside of the settlement blocs.”

“In the talks with Greenblatt, Israel has emphasized its principles for any potential settlement with the Palestinians. In permanent-status negotiations, Israel will insist that all of the West Bank remain under Israel’s overriding security responsibility and that the Palestinians will only maintain a police force for public order that will cooperate with Israel on the prevention of terror. Also, Israel will demand the Palestinian leadership recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. The border will be based on Israel’s security needs. Much of today’s West Bank area C (under Israeli control) will come under Israel’s sovereignty, and Jerusalem will remain the united capital of Israel. A Palestinian capital will be established outside of Jerusalem… The Foreign Ministry official further said that Israel will insist in the negotiations on immediate normalization of relations with the pragmatic Arab states.” [Al-Monitor]

Also in the Al Hayat report: “Ties were further strained after Abbas reportedly refused to meet American ambassador to Israel David Friedman.”[AlHayat

Two former U.S. Ambassadors to Israel, Martin Indyk and Daniel Shapiro, tell Jewish Insider that, if accurate, Friedman’s request to meet Abbas — or to join the U.S. negotiations team in Ramallah — is highly unusual. “The traditional US structure is that the Ambassador meets with Israelis, and the Consul General in Jerusalem meets with Palestinians,” according to Shapiro. “I never met with Abbas as Ambassador. I think this structure has also been the parties’ preference. I gather the new team would like to change that, but Abbas apparently resisted.”

Indyk tells us… “The U.S. diplomat who has responsibility for dealing with the Palestinian Authority is the Consul General in Jerusalem, who has no dealings with the Israeli government. Similarly, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel is not accredited to the Palestinian Authority and has no dealings with the Palestinian government in Ramallah. Generally, the Palestinians would love to have an ambassador deal with them because it connotes that they are a state. But not the US ambassador to Israel.”

Indyk did meet several times with then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat but only in Gaza — in his first term (1995-1997) the U.S. Embassy had responsibility for Gaza — or to broker a ceasefire deal during the second intifada. “When I returned to Israel as ambassador the second time (2000-2001), I only met with Arafat in Ramallah or Gaza on instructions from Washington and in the company of the Consul General, but it would always be up to the Palestinian leader to agree to receive me,” said Indyk. “And it only happened in the context of trying to stop the intifada. I went with the Consul General to Ramallah and he went with me to the PM’s office in Jerusalem. As far as I know, that has never been repeated.”

DRIVING THE DAY: “Trump meets Modi: Budding romance or one-night stand?” by Josh Rogin: “One big potential announcement is that, after weeks of deliberation, the Trump administration has agreed to sell India almost two dozen Guardian drones, a deal worth more than $2 billion that would represent the first such U.S. sale to a non-NATO ally. Even that deal is symbolic of how cautiously the U.S.-India relationship continues to be viewed in New Delhi. [Narendra] Modi’s government has also been negotiating with Israel to buy drones in case the United States doesn’t come though. Modi will visit Israel next week.” [WashPost]  

TRANSITION: “Moscow Is Finally Recalling Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak” by John Hudson: “The decision to bring Kislyak back to Russia rather than appoint him to a senior position at the United Nations in New York… comes amid investigations by the FBI and Congress into the 66-year-old diplomat’s contacts with President Donald Trump’s top aides during the 2016 presidential campaign… Despite the unwanted attention, Kisylak, a former nuclear physicist, has remained a prominent fixture in Washington’s diplomatic party circuit, openly smiling and socializing at receptions held by the Azerbaijan Embassy in June, the Palestinian Liberation Organization in May and other foreign missions.” [BuzzFeed]  

“Trump considering Camp David-style summit to unite Arab leaders to fight terrorism” by Ben Evansky“Fox News has learned that the White House is discussing several options for overcoming the dispute including a broad summit modeled on the 1978 Camp David peace accords that led to the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. “It’s a Camp David moment. We’ve seen nothing like this in 40 years, and now the president wants to follow through,” a senior White House official told Fox News. In what might be seen as a warning for many countries in the region, the senior White House official told Fox News that the president is interested in behavior modification, and “not just Qatar’s.”” [FoxNews

“Trump allies push White House to consider regime change in Tehran” by Michael Crowley: “The case for political subversion in Iran has also been pressed to the White House by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies… Soon after Trump’s inauguration, FDD’s CEO, Mark Dubowitz, submitted a seven-page Iran policy memo to Trump’s National Security Council. The memo—which was circulated inside the Trump White House —included a discussion of ways to foment popular unrest with the goal of establishing a “free and democratic” Iran… It maintained that Trump has an instrumental role to play in discrediting the regime… The FDD memo argues that Rouhani’s presidency “has managed to mislead world leaders that it is a force for moderation and pragmatism,” and suggested that the Trump administration work to prevent Rouhani’s re-election, although there is no evidence that it did… Dubowitz called the memo one of several he has submitted to the Trump administration.” [Politico]

Netanyahu tweets: “We were here long before the Ayatollahs took the Iranian people hostage, and we’ll be here long after their regime is a footnote of history.” [Twitter]

FOGGY BOTTOM TUMULT: “White House frustration grows with Tillerson over jobs for Trump allies” by Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker: “[Margaret] Peterlin’s counterpart at the Treasury Department, chief of staff Eli Miller, said he has experienced no holdup or problem in getting information or arranging phone calls through Peterlin and her staff. “She is very accessible. Really at any time,” Miller said. “I work very closely with them and I’ve never had a problem — early in the morning or late at night.”” [WashPost]

“Where Trump Zigs, Tillerson Zags, Putting Him at Odds With White House” by David E. Sanger, Gardiner Harris and Mark Landler: “Some in the White House say that the discord in the Qatar dispute is part of a broader struggle over who is in charge of Middle East policy — Mr. Tillerson or Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior adviser — and that the secretary of state has a tin ear about the political realities of the Trump administration. Others say it is merely symptomatic of a dysfunctional State Department.” [NYTimes]

TOP TALKER: “Ivanka Trump says ‘I try to stay out of politics’ despite assisting at White House” by Martin Pengelly: “I try to stay out of politics,” Ivanka Trump said [on Fox and Friends] in an answer to a question about her father’s use of Twitter to bypass most normal channels of presidential communication. “His political instincts are phenomenal. He did something that no one could have imagined he’d be able to accomplish… But I don’t profess to be a political savant.” … Though Trump claims to “stay out of politics”, she has been a familiar surrogate for her father in the media and on the world stage… Asked in the interview broadcast on Monday if she ever disagreed with her father… the first daughter said: “So naturally, there are areas where there is disagreement.” [Guardian] • Ivanka says her children call Air Force One ‘the candy plane’ because they get M&Ms on every trip [DailyMail]

HAPPENING TODAY — “Bloomberg’s Next Anti-Washington Move: $200 Million Program for Mayors” by Alexander Burns: “[Michael] Bloomberg intends to announce the initiative on Monday in a speech to the United States Conference of Mayors in Miami Beach, where he will castigate federal officials and state governments around the country for undermining cities. He plans to describe the program, called the American Cities Initiative, as a method of shoring up the global influence of the United States despite turmoil in Washington… A signature component of the proposed Bloomberg initiative will be a “Mayors Challenge,” through which city executives will be invited to compete for six- and seven-figure grants from Bloomberg Philanthropies, awarded to mayors who draw up compelling proposals for policy experimentation.”

“Asked if he had made an appeal to the New Yorker in the White House, Mr. Bloomberg said he had spoken only once to Mr. Trump since his election, describing it as a “pleasant conversation.” “He gave me his private cellphone number, and I haven’t called him,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “He has mine and he hasn’t called me.”” [NYTimes]

America’s 11 Most Interesting Mayors — “Eric Garcetti: The mayor who would be president ” by Edward-Isaac Dovere: “If Garcetti runs for president, he wouldn’t just make history as a rare sitting mayor to do so. He also has the potential to be the first Hispanic and the first Jewish president… The mayor can order his bagel and lox, which he loves, in fluent Spanish.”

The Shadow Mayor: Dan Gilbert* — by Nancy Kaffer: “Gilbert, 55, is not actually the mayor of Detroit, and in most of the city’s sprawling 140-odd square miles, his influence is negligible. But in the city’s now-thriving downtown—Gilbertville, some call it—this billionaire businessman wields the kind of power and boasts a résumé of civic accomplishment that most politicians could only dream of.” [PoliticoMag]

** 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 Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Daniel Loeb’s Activist Hedge Fund Third Point Takes $3.5 Billion Stake in Nestlé [WSJ• A Trump Bump for Law Firm of the President’s Lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz [NYTimes] • Holland & Barrett, the UK’s biggest health food retailer, is being bought by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman for £1.8bn [BBC] • MizMaa’s Leung Sees More Investment From China to Israel [Bloomberg] • Iowa Gov. Reynolds to lead trade mission to Israel [AP]

“Joe Biden’s beef with Bill Ackman sparks heated exchange and presidential chatter” by Charlie Gasparino and Brian Schwartz: “[Bill Ackman] got into a verbal tussle with Biden at a private dinner… at this year’s SkyBridge Alternatives (SALT) Conference, a popular Wall Street confab held in May and started by hedge fund impresario Anthony Scaramucci… The question of why Biden didn’t run for president in 2016 was raised once again, by former Florida governor and 2016 GOP presidential contender Jeb Bush… Biden explained that part of the decision stemmed from the death of his son Beau Biden… That’s when Ackman blurted out “Why? That’s never stopped you before.” … Biden, these people say, turned to someone seated near him, and asked, “who is this asshole?,” a reference to Ackman. Then he turned directly to Ackman and stated: “look, I don’t know who you are, wiseass, but never disrespect the memory of my dead son!” these people say. Ackman attempted what was described as an apology, to which Biden said, “just shut the hell up.”” [FoxBusiness]

FIRST LOOK — “Jared Kushner got his start as Somerville landlord” by Matt Viser: “When [Jared] Kushner arrived in Cambridge in 1999, he plugged into campus life. He was active in the Harvard Chabad, a campus Jewish group; played junior varsity squash…  In the fall of 2000, just before the start of Jared’s sophomore year, Charles Kushner came up to Cambridge with his son. It was time to get started on Jared’s extracurricular business education. They met on a Sunday afternoon with Michael Rubin, a local lawyer, and Charles Kushner began an interview of sorts. “He said, ‘We’re in the real estate business and I want Jared to learn while he’s in college. He’s going to buy some properties and he needs guidance,’ ” Rubin recalled… Nelson Oliveira, a contractor who did all the work on Kushner’s properties, used to pick Kushner up on campus about once a week. As they drove to job sites in Oliveira’s pickup truck, Jared would talk about his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor who started from scratch in the United States.” [BostonGlobe] • Kushner firm’s $285 million Deutsche Bank loan came just before Election Day [WashPost]

LongRead: “The Untold Story of How Gary Cohn Fell for Donald Trump” by William D. Cohan: “In September 2015, [Lloyd] Blankfein announced the shocking news that he had lymphoma… While Blankfein was recuperating, Cohn seemed to delight in the attention and adulation he received when he filled in for his boss on earnings calls, industry presentations, and media events… That’s when, some say, he became overconfident and decided to inquire of several of his fellow board members about becoming C.E.O., even as Blankfein was responding well to his chemotherapy treatments. ‘Gary made a play to replace Lloyd,’ according to a former Goldman partner. It didn’t work. The board was ‘noncommittal’ to Cohn, he continues… The timing was perfect for Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, to pounce. He approached Cohn, supposedly at the suggestion of mutual friends. “Jared Kushner has always been a little starstruck with Goldman Sachs people,” says a former Goldman partner who knows him well… “This was an incredibly sort of convenient and opportune kind of thing that came along for Gary because—whether he was going to Washington or not—Gary was out.”” [VanityFair

“Diaspora donors play key role in Israel’s Labor race” by Gil Hoffman: “Donors who live in the United States and United Kingdom have contributed substantial sums to the candidates in the July 4 Labor leadership race, according to information retrieved from State Comptroller Joseph Shapira’s office by The Jerusalem Post on Sunday… American philanthropists S. Daniel Abraham, Jack Bendheim and Leon Black contributed $12,500, $12,000 and 12,000, respectively, to [Isaac] Herzog…. Cincinnati Jewish community leader Kim Heiman donated $12,500… Global business and communications strategist Zev Furst of New Jersey gave $3,000. Former American Jewish Committee president Robert Goodkind contributed $2,500. American Jewish Congress chairman Jack Rosen donated $2,500 to Margalit’s campaign.” [JPost]

KAFE KNESSET — Kotel compromise, conversion on the chopping block — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: The day after the cabinet capitulated to Haredi demands, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is getting a cold shoulder from some leaders of Diaspora Jewry. The Jewish Agency Board of Directors canceled its planned dinner at the Knesset’s Chagall Hall tonight, and shifted its entire agenda to discuss the ramifications of the decisions. The Reform movement also canceled a meeting with the Prime Minister. Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky released a sharply worded response to the votes, expressing “deep disappointment,” and pointing out that Netanyahu said the Kotel should be “one wall for one people.” He added that the decision “signifies a retreat…[that] will make our work to bring Israel and the Jewish world closer together increasingly more difficult.”

Today’s faction meetings in the Knesset were all about the Kotel controversy. President of the Union of Reform Judaism Rabbi Rick Jacobs and Chief Executive of the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly Julie Schonfeld were very popular guests. The two rabbis even sat next to Yair Lapid as he made his statement to the press opposing the decisions. Lapid said in English: “Don’t give up on us – we’re not giving up on you. We are one people.” Liberman said the Haredim are trying to turn Israel into a theocracy, “from a Zionist state to a halachic state.”

Haredi parties are on the defensive: Senior UTJ MK Moshe Gafni stated that, after consulting with legal experts, freezing the Kotel compromise was the best way to prevent the Supreme Court from intervening in what happens at the Western Wall. Gafni noted that the Haredi parties would have allowed the status quo if the non-Orthodox movements had not appealed to the courts. Gafni accused Reform Jewry of trying to intervene from abroad.  He observed that if they ran in Israeli politics, they wouldn’t get even one seat in the Knesset. According to Gafni, “the Reform movement is screaming like someone who murdered his father, and then went to the court and said “have mercy on me, I’m an orphan.’” Shas chairman Arye Deri said that people are only complaining because the move happened in a right-wing government. “If we were doing this in a left-wing government, we would be praised for protecting tradition and the sanctity of the Kotel. They want to use us to dismantle the government and bring down Netanyahu. We won’t let anyone take apart what we worked to build for 70 years.” And then Deri added that he’s not trying to be divisive: “Every Jew can come to the Kotel and pray.”

Kafe Knesset’s take: The decision reverberated throughout the political sphere, but, it is unclear is how much the average Israeli cares about religion and state issues when it doesn’t directly connect to their tax rates or IDF service. Netanyahu, for one, has very little to worry about electorally – his Likud base isn’t fighting for non-Orthodox Jewry, for the most part, and quite a few of them strongly oppose the Conservative and Reform movements. And on the other political side, respected Army Radio broadcaster Razi Barkai, whose left-wing and secular bona fides are undoubted, asked Jewish-American guests more than once this morning: “If you want to influence Israel, why don’t make Aliya and vote here?” Barkai’s question may show his disregard for Diaspora Jewry, but it is the crux of the matter in Israeli politics. Public opinion polls show that the importance of Diaspora Jewry to Israelis is waning. And Diaspora Jews don’t vote. So, making a quick calculation, Israeli politicians realize that they don’t need to do what Diaspora Jews want in order to survive – but they generally do need to appease the Haredim to keep a coalition together. Notice that hardly anyone voted against it, and even Liberman isn’t exactly threatening to bring down the government over religion and state. Of course, that brings up the question – are politics really everything? Don’t some things come before staying in your seat? Well, it seems we got our answer on Sunday. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here[JewishInsider]

“Netanyahu to millions of Jews: We don’t really want you” by David Horovitz: “Benjamin Netanyahu would never put it in such blunt terms, of course. And doubtless he will expend considerable rhetorical energy in the near future insisting that it is not the case.” [ToI]

“The Art of the Netanyahu Deal: Why Trump Should Pay Attention to Israel’s Broken Western Wall Promise” by Amir Tibon: “If Greenblatt wants to be more successful than his predecessors in getting what his boss has called “the ultimate peace deal,” he would be wise not just to read the memoirs of the previous peace negotiators, but also to learn from the most recent case of Netanyahu’s balancing act. Netanyahu has proven once again that his coalition partners are more important to him than promises he makes to Israel’s friends in America.” [Haaretz

“Israel’s Too-Controversial Culture Warrior” by Shmuel Rosner: “Miri Regev, Israel’s minister of culture and sport… is regularly booed when she attends plays or operas. These boos are well deserved. Ms. Regev shows no affinity for understated, nuanced, civil discourse. She has been also called “Trump in high heels” and the “Sarah Palin of Israel.” Much like these American politicians, Ms. Regev is blunt, occasionally foul-mouthed and thrives on controversy. In short, she is often an embarrassment — especially for those, like me, who think she has a point. The point is obvious: There is a difference between “freedom of expression,” which Israel must preserve, and “freedom of funding,” as Ms. Regev calls it.” [NYTimes]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Gay Pride marchers with Jewish flags told to leave Chicago parade” by Harriet Sinclair: “The Jewish Star of David flag was banned from the city’s annual Dyke March celebrations, and several people carrying the flag were removed from the march because their presence “made people feel unsafe,” LGBT paper Windy City Times reported… The organizers of the march told the Times the event was a pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist one and that the flags made people feel unsafe… “This is not what this is community is supposed to be about,” marcher Ruthie Steiner told the Times after seeing people thrown out because of their Jewish Pride flags.” [Newsweek; Chicagoist

“How Twitter Pornified Politics” by Bret Stephens: “This is the column in which I formally forswear Twitter for good. I’ll keep my Twitter handle, and hopefully my followers, but an editorial assistant will manage the account from now on… Things we would never say in person, acts we would never perform, become safe to indulge thanks to the prophylactic of a digital interface. After I took this job, one wag on Twitter wrote that he hoped I’d be “Danny Pearl-ed.” He must have found it funny. My 11-year-old son didn’t.” [NYTimes]

“Trump won, and Amy Siskind started a list of changes. Now it’s a sensation” by Margaret Sullivan: ““I needed a Zen moment,” Siskind, who had campaigned for Hillary Clinton, told me. “And that is a place that inspires me.” Soon afterward, Siskind began keeping what she calls the Weekly List, tracking all the ways in which she saw America’s taken-for-granted governmental norms changing in the Trump era… She posts the list on Saturday on Facebook and Twitter, and Sunday on Medium, after working on it for 15 or 20 hours a week.” [WashPost]

WEEKEND WEDDINGS — “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin marries fiancee in front of Trump” by Alana Goodman: “The 300-person guest list included President Trump, First Lady Melania and Vice President Mike Pence. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner also attended the lavish ceremony. The Vice President officiated the couple’s wedding… Jared and Ivanka arrived on a private bus reserved for wedding guests after they were earlier spotted leaving the Trump International Hotel in DC.” [DailyMail; Politico]

Marla Friedman, Eduardo Weinstein: “The bride, 31, is an editor for Apple News in New York… She is the daughter of Dolly H. Hertz of Armonk, N.Y., and Gary L. Friedman of Redmond, Wash… The groom, 36, is the head of strategy and analytics at Google in New York… He is a son of Susana Drullinsky of Santiago and the late Miguel Weinstein.” [NYTimes]

“Making friends and — maybe — major life decisions on Honeymoon Israel” by Shira Center: “An increasing number of US Jews are marrying someone of another religion… Enter Honeymoon Israel: a heavily subsidized, immersive trip for couples, many of whom are interfaith, with the aim of cultivating intentional and meaningful communities on their own terms… Eligible couples must be within the first five years of marriage or in a committed relationship. At least one of the partners must be between 25 and 40, have some Jewish heritage, and not been on an organized trip to Israel, such as Birthright.” [BostonGlobe

DESSERT — Rabbi Yonah Bookstein writes… “As we start packing this weekend to prepare for our pilgrimage to High Sierra, which starts June 29th in Quincy, CA, my heart is already pounding faster, and my smile is brighter… I’m a big believer in the power of music festivals to make the world a better place. The power of music and community to elevate our souls, enables us to build a more compassionate society. You can’t get that in a class or in a book – you have to experience this.” [HuffPost• After recent high-profile blunders, music festival promoters find bigger isn’t always better [LATimes]

BIRTHDAYS: CEO of Gibralt Capital, a Vancouver-based alternative asset manager, he has owned at various times Bache Securities, Gulf Oil, Armstrong World, Yale Locks, Hamilton Beach and NuTone, Samuel Belzberg turns 89 (today is also the birthday of his son-in-law, Strauss Zelnick)… JD and MBA graduate of Harvard, founder and CEO of ZMC (originally known as Zelnick Media), previously CEO of several media firms including 20th Century Fox and record label BMG Entertainment, Strauss Zelnick turns 60… British Labour party member of Parliament for 42 years (1966-1970 and again from 1979-2017), David Winnick turns 84… Long time play-by-play announcer for the San Francisco Giants, Hank Greenwald turns 82… Attorney and public affairs strategist, a close confidant of former President Obama, past Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (2009-2011), Alan Solow turns 63… VP for academic affairs at Loyola University Maryland, a psychologist known for her work on sleep patterns and behavioral well-being, Amy Ruth Wolfson, Ph.D. turns 57… Once the wealthiest of all Russian oligarchs, then a prisoner in Russia and now living in exile in Switzerland, Mikhail Khodorkovsky turns 54… President and founder of Reut Institute, a Tel Aviv-based nonpartisan and nonprofit policy think tank, Gidi Grinstein turns 47… Senior manager of corporate communications at American Airlines, Ross F. Feinstein turns 35 (h/t Playbook)… Staff assistant and policy advisor for the Office of Public Engagement in the Obama White House, now an advisor to the Chicago City Treasurer, Asher J. Mayerson turns 24… David Marks… Robert Levin

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