Daily Kickoff: Heard at the Aspen Ideas Festival | ‘End of small talk in DC’ | Mariah Carey stirs controversy in Israel | Charles Bronfman BDay


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ASPEN IDEAS FESTIVAL: What’s driving the conversation at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival so far? Nov. 8th, 2016. How do you explain his [Trump’s] win and who/what is to blame for it? At panels ranging from cyber security and fake news to the general divide in the country, the overall mood is one of a collective shiva, and not just from Democrats. Over 500 attendees packed an off-campus evening event at the St Regis last night to hear Bill Kristol and Ramesh Ponnuru bemoan the state and future of the Conservative movement in the Trump era. Typically known as ‘DC’s version of summer camp,’ welcome to the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival exile edition.

Bill Kristol on 2020: “If the Republicans nominate Trump again in 2020 then it’s hard for me to justify him as a one-off fluke for the GOP… It would mean it’s a deeply problematic party.” [Pic]

Earlier, Kristol wrote that he looks forward to engaging the Aspen audiences, “Who will assume that because I’m anti-Trump I’m ‘reasonable’ on other issues. It will be fun to surprise them — and to have a chance to talk to some other presenters and guests about this unusual political moment.” [AspenTimes]

HEARD LAST NIGHT — Jeffrey Goldberg explaining how Yoni Appelbaum became The Atlantic’s politics editor: “Ta-Nehisi Coates, when he had a blog, used to have commenters at the bottom of the blog and he curated the comments so it wasn’t just dangerous, mentally ill people. And this commenter started showing up — who went by the name ‘the cynic’ — and his comments were unusually smart. Ta-Nehisi noticed and started talking back and forth with this person… and eventually Ta-Nehisi would tell people around The Atlantic, ‘I don’t know, I think this guy has like a Ph.D. or something. This is crazy.’ Finally, Ta-Nehisi figured out who it was… It was Yoni — a ‘sad’ academic in the Boston area [teaching at Harvard], who clearly needed a venue to express all the things he was thinking beyond the narrow paradigm of academia. Yoni was in a tenure track universe, but he clearly had this journalism bug. One thing led to another and, thank goodness, Yoni made the decision to join the ranks of journalism.” [Video]

Spotted at the Start-Up Nation Central tent, highlighting Israeli innovation, on the Aspen Institute campus: CEO of the Aspen Institute Walter Isaacson schmoozing with Campbell Brown, Daniel Bonner, Debbie Hochberg, and Raphael Ouzan. [Pic

Near the Facebook tent, David Brooks walking with a wiffle bat and balls [Pic]

Top Headline: “Police looking into how car landed in pond at Aspen Meadows campus” [AspenDailyNews]

Senator Chris Coons on how secular and religious communities have a common cause: “You can get to some of our most important priorities through two routes. You care about welcoming immigrants and refugees – you can get there because you care about other people as an intellectual, as a humanist, as a principled manner. Or you can get there relying on passages in Torah and Gospel about welcoming the stranger.” [YouTube]

Wendy Sherman, Richard Haass, Jane Harman and Samantha Power discussed foreign policy at a panel titled ‘Has American Grand Strategy Gone Missing?’ moderated by Rana Foroohar: “This panel may be four women and one man, but we are all card–carrying members of the swamp, and so are some of the people advising the current administration. I am ok with the swamp,” explained Jane Harman… When Foroohar asked the audience to raise their hands if they feel the US presently has a coherent strategy, no hands were raised. Samantha Power, of all panelists, interjected: “To be fair, three years ago, if you’d ask them the same thing… many wouldn’t have raised their hands.”

Power: “The elite consensus [of the past sixty years]…is unlikely to be supported by most Americans.”

Harman on making Congress work: “Obama did not invest in it, after trying it out for 10 minutes. He didn’t invest in it.”

Richard Haas on the NSC process: “You need a formal National Security process and it’s got to be the only one. You can’t afford more than one at a time… [The George H.W. Bush administration] worked extraordinarily well for lots of reasons. What was so funny is that you had more experience per square inch, per pound in that administration, and it was probably the most organized NSC process we have ever had. All I will say, without getting into individuals, we probably have less experience on foreign policy in this administration than any post-WWII administration.”

SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY: ‘It’s the End of Small Talk in Washington’ — by Daniel Lippman and John F. Harris: “Georgetown as LBJ thought of it, and as presidents up through Bill Clinton encountered it, is now a faint ghost, largely a historical phenomenon. But its lineal descendant is still very much around. It is that group of scene-makers and self-promoters, along with some well-intentioned people who genuinely admire public service, that journalist Mark Leibovich skewered in his 2013 book This Town. If these were normal times, the kind of people LBJ excoriated and Leibovich lampooned would be engaged right now in a familiar ritual. It would involve lunches and dinners with the new White House team, off-the-record chats about the workings of government mixed with let’s-be-friends chatter about real estate and schools and fitness routines. But these aren’t normal times. Team Trump is showing few signs so far of hungering for the sort of social intercourse with permanent Washington that usually accompanies a new administration.”

“Ivanka and Jared, who have three young children and observe Shabbat on Friday evenings, don’t get out much, either. The Trump-Kushners live a three-minute walk from Barack and Michelle Obama… But the contrast with the Obamas has been instructive. People who live near the Trump-Kushners initially didn’t receive such outreach or handwritten cards, and the oversight was noted. After published reports about how Ivanka’s neighbors were angry at the disruptions to their street—one irate Kalorama resident called it “a three-ring circus from the day that they moved in”—the first daughter showed up at several of their doors with a peace offering: two blue cupcakes baked by daughter Arabella, and an apology for the chaos her move to Tracy Place has caused.” [PoliticoMag]

“Kushner adds powerhouse lawyer Abbe Lowell to legal team” by Josh Dawsey: “Jared Kushner has hired Abbe Lowell, one of the country’s leading criminal defense lawyers, to represent him in the special counsel’s probe of potential Russian collusion with the Trump campaign and his financial dealings… But Kushner has also decided to keep Jamie Gorelick, his current lawyer and a WilmerHale partner, on his legal team… Lowell, a Democrat, has represented prominent politicians such as John Edwards and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.” [Politico

HEARD YESTERDAY — WH Press Secretary Sean Spicer asked about reported tension between the U.S. peace negotiations team and the Palestinians at the daily press briefing: “Well, first, I think the meetings were extremely productive. They’re going to make incremental movements forward, but it’s going to be a process. It’s not going to get solved in a night. And I think they made some good progress overall, and also continuing to build trust between all the parties. It’s no secret, I know, that when President Abbas was here, we discussed the payments as an issue then, and so it should be no surprise it came up. But I would argue that the relationship continues to be very strong and move forward in a positive way.”

Israeli Minister Bennett: Trump pressure on settlements disappoints: “Naftali Bennett, leader of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, says the settler movement expected a building boom after Trump’s election… “Unfortunately from our perspective, he’s sort of going down the same unsuccessful path that his predecessors did,” Bennett said in an interview Monday. “So yes, there is disappointment out there.”” [AP]

PEW SURVEY — Israel one of two countries with higher Trump favorability than Obama — by Aaron Magid: Israeli confidence in Trump is currently at 56% compared to 49% at the end of Obama’s term. At the same time, the Israeli favorability view of the United States has remained consistent at 81% from 2015-2017. Israel is the country that most strongly believes that its ties with Washington will improve during the Trump administration (65%), with only 8% thinking that relations will decline. Regarding Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the Mexican border, Israel was the country with the second highest number of backers for this proposal worldwide.

The most dramatic break with Trump was over the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords. 69% of Israelis opposed the administration’s decision with a mere 19% backing the initiative. Jerusalem is one of the signers of the international environment agreement. [JewishInsider]

JI INTERVIEW — Rep Brad Schneider (D-IL) discussed U.S. foreign policy, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, his legislative priorities and his upcoming reelection bid in 2018 in an interview with JI’s Aaron Magid. “I was the first Democrat to win in 2012. I lost in 2014 and I’m back now,” he said. “It’s good to be back and pick up where I left off to have the opportunity to step into a leadership role. I am not focused on the next election. If I make sure that I stay in touch with the people I represent, I’m going to have an opportunity to make a difference in the 10th district.” Schneider will likely face Jeremy Wynes, a former AIPAC, RJC staffer, in the 2018 midterm elections.

In recent weeks, Schneider has introduced several pro-Israel billsincluding legislation that would boost funding for the Department of Defense to carry out research with Israel focused on tunnel detection technologies. Additionally, Schneider took the lead on a bipartisan bill that would strengthen Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME), which is especially timely given the administration’s $110 billion arms sales deal with Saudi Arabia.

Schneider On Taylor Force Act: “US policy is clear that the Palestinians have to stop providing payments to families of terrorists. It’s important that the US continues to have its leverage and exert its influence in the region with the Palestinians. I am adamantly against these payments by the Palestinians. I am working with my colleagues here to find a way to put pressure on the Palestinians to stop it but I also understand that we need to make sure that we preserve the ability to have leverage and the Israelis to continue security cooperation with the PA.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]

ON THE HILL — Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker (R-TN) announced yesterday that he would block President Donald Trump’s weapons sales to Gulf states until the Qatar dispute is resolved. “Recent disputes among the GCC countries only serve to hurt efforts to fight ISIS and counter Iran,” Corker said. Jewish groups have expressed concern over the $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia. AIPAC has questioned how this agreement would impact Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) and J Street condemned the move because of Saudi Arabia’s bombing of civilians in the ongoing Yemen crisis. However, Corker’s obstruction cited a different reason to “resolve the current dispute (with Qatar) and reunify the GCC.”

IRAN DEAL: “Trump administration welcomes financial watchdog’s Iran sanctions reprieve” by Laura Rozen: “The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) voted last week to continue suspending countermeasures on Iran indefinitely, while keeping the country on the banking advisory body’s black list. State and Treasury officials told Al-Monitor they welcomed the decision to warn about the risks of doing business with Iran… Iran, for its part, said it was encouraged that the United States joined the global agency’s decision to suspend countermeasures on Iran. Former US lawmakers affiliated with the hawkish United Against Nuclear Iran lobbied against the sanctions reprieve, to no avail.” [Al-Monitor

SPOTLIGHT: “Evidence Ties Israeli Firm To Turkish Businessman At Heart Of Flynn Scandal, Despite Denials” by Borzou Daragahi:“Orit Teicher, of the Israeli public relations and crisis-management firm Shalom Tel Aviv, told BuzzFeed News in a short email: “Ratio did not employ the services of Mr. Ekim Alptekin nor Inovo BV.” She declined to elaborate on the photographs or documents that suggest otherwise. Photos of [Kamil Ekim] Alptekin seen by BuzzFeed News show he attended an energy conference in Israel in November 2016 as a guest of Ratio. In one photo, Alptekin can be seen wearing a conference name tag showing his name and, in Hebrew, “Ratio Oil Exploration (1992) Partnership,” as his affiliation. Emails seen by BuzzFeed News also show that Ratio advisers and officials, including [Yossi] Shazar, helped organize Alptekin’s two-day trip to Israel.” [BuzzFeed]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: As Europe Bounces Back, Activist Investors Like Loeb Pounce [Bloomberg] • Cable-X case heads to Complex Business Litigation court [JPost]  Israeli Content Recommendation Firm Outbrain Lays Off 4% of its Workforce [WSJ] • Short of IT workers at home, Israeli startups recruit elsewhere [Reuters] • Israeli cloud tech specialist Ethernity Networks in £45m AIM float [EveningStandard]

“U.S. to work with Israel, seek other ties to combat cyber attacks” by Steven Scheer: “Thomas Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counter-terrorism, said a U.S.-Israeli working group will meet this week on cybersecurity issues such as protecting critical infrastructure… “These high level meetings represent the first step in strengthening bilateral ties on cyber issues following President Trump’s visit to Israel” last month, Bossert told a cybersecurity conference in Tel Aviv.” [Reuters

“Israel is still floating a plan for Gaza island. And now there’s a video” by Ruth Eglash: “The nearly three-minute animated clip says the island would provide Palestinians with “humanitarian, economic and transportation gateway to the world without endangering Israel’s security.” The island, according to [minister for intelligence Israel] Katz, would be financed, built and owned by the international community. It would sit roughly three miles of the coast of Gaza and be connected to the enclave by a bridge… A spokesman for Katz, who is known as the bulldozer of Israeli politics for not stopping until he gets what he wants, said he refuses to give up on the idea.”[WashPost]

KAFE KNESSET — The religious wars continue — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Two days after the controversial government decisions to suspend the Kotel agreement and promote a new conversion bill, the issue is still high on the agenda. PM Netanyahu made multiple attempt yesterday to douse the flames, meeting with Jewish Federation leaders and conducting a phone call with the Jewish Agency chairman, Natan Sharansky. But according to well-informed sources, none of these encounters went very well. “Netanyahu tried to convince Sharansky and the Federation leaders that he did not succumb to the Haredi pressure and that the suspension of the Kotel agreement is actually progress – because it will enable practical steps to develop the area easier, but they clarified that this is a crisis that is not going to go away so fast.”

Meanwhile, early this morning, Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett woke up and realized there are some political points to be made in this debacle. Bennett immediately embarked on a vocal campaign, warning of a serious crisis with US Jewry, who, according to Bennett “received a slap in the face from the Israeli government and feel unwanted. Of course it is not true. The Jews of the United States are welcome and beloved, they are our brothers. But mistakes were made in timing and in the form of things,” he said in a Tweet storm. Bennett followed these statements with a press briefing and an on-camera statement. Bennett and his fellow party member, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, then invited Jewish Agency trustees, Federation leaders and Reform and Conservative representatives for a special meeting to discuss ideas to move beyond the crisis. Today, Bennett is trying to play the “responsible adult,” but on Sunday he did nothing to stop the decisions made by the government, even though the new conversion bill hurts parts of his own religious-Zionist constituency. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here[JewishInsider]

WH Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked yesterday by Time’s Zeke Miller: “Prime Minister Netanyahu reversed on a deal to create a gender-neutral space on the Western Wall. And a number of American Jewish leaders are blasting the Israeli Prime Minister. Has there been any contact on this sensitive issue? And does that the White House take any position on that?”

Spicer: “I don’t have anything for you on that right now. I would probably refer you to the State Department.”
 
Abe Foxman tells us… “Netanyahu cannot have it both ways. He can’t promise American Jews time and time again to support their requests and demands for religious respect and pluralism and overnight, because of political pressure, throw them to the winds. It has worked at times before. I don’t think it will work this time. Diaspora Jewry needs to hold strong and united and say: Not again! Israel will lose future generations of American Jews, not on settlements or the ‘occupation’ but on religious respect and pluralism. But, at the same time, we also need be careful not to play the political card in reverse. I am not sure that at this time it is productive to embrace the Israeli opposition as a political party. American Jews should stand up on principle and not the politics.”

“Mariah Carey Stirs Controversy in Israel” by David Caspi: “Arriving Monday afternoon in Tel Aviv to promote a new partnership with local skincare line Premier Dead Sea Cosmetics, Mariah Carey presided over a press conference followed by select TV interviews where the topic soon turned to the pop star’s ex-fiancé, Australian billionaire James Packer and a corruption investigation involving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I don’t know where the motherf—er is,” Carey laughingly said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 News when asked about Packer’s whereabouts. “How am I supposed to know? I don’t know, for real. I really have no idea about the political stuff that goes on, I don’t pay attention to it.” [HollywoodReporter]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Foes in high places: How de Blasio lost mayoral control” by Jimmy Vielkind and Gloria Pazmino: “At least part of the reason is that key officials… either dislike or are indifferent to Mayor Bill de Blasio… And [Senator Simcha] Felder does not get along with de Blasio. One Democratic official who knows them both described their relationship as one of “mutual hate and destruction,” dating back 15 years to their time on the New York City Council… On adjournment day, Felder made his play: he wanted armed police officers posted at the entrances of every school in the city… City Hall offered 200 additional officers, sources said, but Felder refused.” [Politico]

HAPPENING TODAY: Mayor Bill de Blasio will host the annual City Hall Jewish Heritage celebration at Gracie Mansion in the evening. Rabbi Joseph Potasnik will be this year’s honoree. “I am honored to represent the New York Board of Rabbis which is the largest interdenominational rabbinic body in the world demonstrating that we can have unity without uniformity as one people,” Potasnik told Jewish Insider. “This celebration is a reminder that we Jews must remember not only our pain but also our pride as a people.”

NEXT GEN: “Young Socialites Conjure the Ghost of Leonard Bernstein at the Dakota” by Ben Widdicombe: “Larry Milstein, 22, and his sister Toby, 24 — whose family wealth Forbes estimated at $3.1 billion in 2015 — live with their parents, Cheryl and Philip, in a park-facing apartment once occupied by the celebrated composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. Inspired by the many artists who have called the Dakota home, and spurred by their own substantial arts philanthropy, these millennial billion-heirs have taken to hosting séances that are attended by their fashionable set of well-connected peers… At the stroke of 5 p.m., a doorbell announced the arrival of Princess Noor Pahlavi, 24, a daughter of Iran’s exiled crown prince, Reza Pahlavi, and granddaughter of the late shah. She brought cheese… “I had to get really Persian,” said the princess… “It’s just, like, so controlling to bring food.” “I think Jews can appreciate that as well,” Ms. Milstein replied.” [NYTimes]

DESSERT: “Tel Aviv’s cult pita restaurant Miznon to open in Melbourne” by Delima Shanti: “Originally from Tel Aviv, Miznon has brought its pita pockets to Paris and Vienna, and now founder Eyal Shani (a well-known Israeli chef and television personality) is bringing his cheap, veggie-centric sandwiches to Melbourne in August. Overseas, the cheap eats restaurant has cultivated a cult following – the standing-room-only Parisian branch is famous for its open kitchen heaving with locals and tourists hungry for a bread pocket stuffed with slow cooked lamb or grilled chicken and salad.” [TimeOut]

BIRTHDAYS: One of the heirs to the Bronfman family fortune, a co-founder of Taglit Birthright, the first Chairman of the United Jewish Communities (1999-2001), owner of MLB’s Montreal Expos (1968-1990), Charles Bronfman turns 86… Member of the Pennsylvania legislature: lower house (1997-2001) and Senate (2001-2009), her father is Leon Hess, founder of Hess Corporation and former owner of the New York Jets, Constance H. “Connie” Williams turns 73… Senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, previously the commander of the Israeli Navy (1992-1996), head of the Shin Bet (1995-2000) and member of Knesset (2006-2009), Amihai “Ami” Ayalon turns 72… Controller at A & E Stores, Kenneth R. Blankfein turns 61… Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives since 2010, Lori Bermanturns 59… British historian, television presenter and award-winning author of popular history books and novels, he is a great-great-nephew of Sir Moses Montefiore, Simon Sebag Montefiore turns 52… Creator of multiple TV series including “Felicity,” “Alias,” “Lost” and “Fringe,”and director and producer of many films, J.J. Abrams turns 51… Senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute and editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review, Ilya Shapiro turns 40… Talent Partner at the Menlo Park office of New Enterprise Associates, after holding similar positions at Khosla Ventures and Bain & Company, Holly Rose Faith… Principal of Mercazz, LLC, a boutique business development and private equity investment firm, after spending 9 years at a series of positions in the Israeli Embassy in DC, Deydra Cavazos… Meyer Roth… Susan Feldman 

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