President Donald Trump at the United Nations on Sept. 19. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Daily Kickoff: Trump talks peace, Bibi focused on Iran | Meet Obama’s go-to speechwriter for kishke speeches | Dicey future for jarred gefilte fish


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OUT TODAY — “Thanks, Obama. My Hopey, Changey White House Years” by former White House speechwriter David Litt: In advance of the book’s publication, we conducted an iMessage interview with David late last night. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

JI: In the book, you write “if something kishke-related came up (at the White House), I was the go-to guy.” How did you become that guy?

Litt: In 2011, President Obama delivered a speech at the Union of Reform Judaism’s annual meeting. I had this moment where I was like “As a kid, I did eight years of Hebrew school and never knew why. This is why!” After that speech if something was going to be delivered to the American Jewish community, I generally handled it.

JI: How was teaching Hebrew to the President?

Litt: It was great, except for the hard ‘CH’ sounds. Those didn’t go so well. People could be pretty hard on him if he didn’t get a “Chag Sameach” right, but I write in the book about how he gave it plenty of tries. And it’s not like he grew up with that sound. As we all know, it’s a tough one!

JI: In 2012, you were in the storm path of one Harvey Weinstein. How did that happen? 

Litt: Maybe it’s best to let people read the whole story in the book!

JI: You mention your great-grandparents from Eastern Europe several times in the book. If they were still with us, what do you think they would be most surprised to read?

Litt: Honestly, I think they’d be stunned that I ended up in the White House just a few generations after they arrived here with almost nothing, in many cases not even speaking English. That’s such a typical American story, but we shouldn’t lose sight of how remarkable that typical-ness is. And I like to think they’d understand that in it’s own way, the fact that I got serve under America’s first black president is part of that story too. This is a country that at its best is always expanding its definition of what’s possible, and my family got to be part of that.

JI: Not to spoil the ending to a chapter about the legendary Correspondents’ Dinner speeches, but what did you have to tell the President after he asked what happened to using a photoshopped picture he liked of him and Bibi Netanyahu in 2013?

Litt: “I’m sorry, Mr. President, we just couldn’t use that picture. You kind of looked like Hitler in it.” Like you said, it’s a long story. $18.29 for the hardcover. Available now [Amazon]

“Ivanka Trump talks Hillary’s book on ‘Dr. Oz’” by Maggie Coughlan: “The first daughter sat down with Dr. Oz for an interview about her life in Washington, D.C., but surprised the audience when she commented on Hillary Clinton‘s newly released book… Ivanka said she’d be curious to know what Hillary, 69, would do when she disagreed with husband Bill while he was president. During the interview, Ivanka, 35, also revealed that she suffered from postpartum depression following the birth of her first child, Arabella… “The highlight of the show was when Ivanka joked about taking over her father’s Twitter account.”” [PageSix]

TODAY AT 10:30 AM: President Trump delivers his much-anticipated address at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will attend the President’s speech. Netanyahu is expected to speak around 1:00 PM. Trump will be in the UN building, meeting with the UN Secretary-General, during Bibi’s speech. [Livestream]

“Egypt’s Sisi meets Israeli PM at UN for first public talks” by Emmanuel Parisse: “Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu publicly for the first time in New York to discuss Middle East peace… Sisi emphasized the importance of “resuming negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian sides to reach a comprehensive solution,” the [Egyptian] presidency said. The two leaders discussed “ways to resume the peace process and establish a Palestinian state,” it said.” [Yahoo; Haaretz

BIBI MEETS TRUMP: Trump met with Netanyahu for over an hour yesterday at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel. Ahead of the meeting, Trump that there’s a “good chance” for Middle East peace. “It’d be a fantastic achievement. We are giving it an absolute go.” Netanyahu said, “I want to say that under your leadership the alliance between America and Israel has never been stronger, never been deeper… “I want to say, that under President Trump, America’s position towards Israel and the U.N. has been unequivocal. It’s been strong.” [Video]

HOW IT PLAYED: “Trump at U.N. Talks Up, but Does Not Press, Mideast Peace” by Mark Landler: “While Mr. Trump has clung to the hope for peace… he has put much more time into cementing alliances with the Sunni Muslim kingdoms of the Persian Gulf, as a way of confronting Iran… “Middle East peace is desirable because it’s the mother of all diplomatic deals,” said Robert M. Danin, a senior fellow… at the Council on Foreign Relations. “But the conflict that’s taking place in the Gulf is harming U.S. interests in a more immediate sense.” … The allure of a history-making peace accord is still strong, as Mr. Trump’s remarks with Mr. Netanyahu illustrated. While the Israeli leader kept his focus on “the terrible nuclear deal with Iran,” Mr. Trump spoke expansively about a peace agreement as though it was a genuine possibility, somewhat to the Israelis’ surprise.” [NYTimes]

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Netanyahu said that he “shares the desire to reach peace with the Palestinians, but I insist on those vital interests – the goal is peace, security, security and peace. There will be no peace if we cannot anchor the security of the State of Israel.” Despite the fact that the peace process was the only topic mentioned by the President during the photo op, Israeli and US officials told Kafe Knesset that the issue took second place during the meeting, which was mostly dedicated to Bibi’s favorite topic – Iran. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Mea Culpa: I Said Trump and Bibi Would Blow Up” by Aaron David Miller: “A year or so ago in this space… I predicted that it would be only a matter of time before U.S. President Donald Trump and… Netanyahu would be annoying the hell out of one another… Even I’m a little stunned by how the relationship has blossomed seemingly without serious disruption and complication… Trump may be unpredictable on many issues, but when it comes to the U.S.-Israeli relationship he’s been preternaturally and consistently pro-Netanyahu.” [FP]

BRIEFING: “The President and Prime Minister Netanyahu had a very good meeting,” State Department Director of Policy Planning Brian Hook told reporters at a briefing yesterday. The President reaffirmed America’s unshakable bond with the Jewish state.” The two leaders, according to Hook, discussed “at length” countering Iran’s malign influence in the region, not allowing the “Lebanization” of Syria, and the Middle East peace process.

Hook told JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that the peace process didn’t take up much time in the meeting: “I didn’t keep a stopwatch, in terms of just how long everybody discussed each subject. As I said, they spent a lot of time talking about Iran and about Syria — Middle East peace. I would say it was an equitable distribution of topics. I think each was given the time necessary needed to kind of give it full justice. So, it was a very good discussion. But these discussions are so regular, it wasn’t a lot of time that had elapsed because the trip that Jared and his team recently made was only a few weeks ago. We’re in regular discussions with the Israelis.”

Hook on the two-state solution: “What the President has been talking about in the context of Middle East peace is trying to avoid bumper stickers and slogans around this. He does not want to impose a solution. And what he’s really trying to do is work as a facilitator to find a solution that both sides can accept. Ambassador [David] Friedman has talked about it in terms of a win-win for both the Israelis and the Palestinians. He does want to take a new approach.”

‘Ridiculous’ if Trump doesn’t back two-state solution: Palestinian official: “It would be utterly ridiculous if Mr Trump doesn’t eventually say that,” Nabil Shaath, a senior Abbas adviser, told journalists in Ramallah when asked about the two-state solution. “What the hell are we negotiating? We are negotiating a diplomatic accord between Abu Mazen and Mr Netanyahu where they can meet each other? No.” [YahooNews] • More Palestinians Seek Abbas Resignation; Skeptical of Trump [AP]

WHAT NETANYAHU WANTS TO TALK ABOUT — Netanyahu at a briefing for Israeli reporters: “The American establishment has changed its approach toward Iran. We’re in agreement with the Americans that this agreement is terrible. There’s a clear American interest, which was conveyed to me explicitly, about the desire to fix the problems in the agreement… I said in the past that the biggest problem I see isn’t if Iran violates the agreement, but if it upholds it… The president’s starting point regarding Iran is identical to ours. That wasn’t the case in the previous administration. Like us, this president sees Iran as the root of the Middle East’s problems.” [Haaretz

ON THE HILL — JI’s Aaron Magid asked Senators yesterday what they’d advise the administration to do on October 15th, the next certification deadline for the Iran deal.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT): “I would support the administration on decertifying Iran from adherence to nuclear deal. He (the President) can lead on that particular issue, which is fine with me.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY): “I think as they (Iran) are adhering to the nuclear agreement, we should stay in the agreement and not change it. All of the reports have said so. The Trump administration has certified that they (Iran) have been.”

HAPPENING TODAY — United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) will host its second annual Iran Summit at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. Speakers include New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, General (Ret) David Petraeus, HRH Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, Joe Lieberman, John Bolton, Dennis Ross, former Governors Jeb Bush and Bill Richardson; Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ron DeSantis, former Congressman Steve Israel, former Senator Mark Kirk, and former Attorney General of Canada Dr. Irwin Cotler.

HEARD YESTERDAY — Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt called on the Palestinian Authority to reassert control over Gaza in an address before donor nations to the Palestinians. “The time has come to stop monitoring the situation in Gaza and start changing the situation in Gaza,” Greenblatt said, according to a transcript released by the White House. The New York attorney slammed Hamas for its abusive treatment of Palestinian people since its 2007 coup over Gaza. “For too long, Hamas has exploited the people of Gaza as hostages and shields, bullying them into submission. Hamas rules by the fist, instead of by improving the lives of the people it purports to govern,” he added.

While the Trump administration is now supporting the Taylor Force Act, which would cut off all US economic aid to the PA for terror payments, Greenblatt urged donor countries to help the PA during its current economic struggles. “The PA is still dependent on international donors and is unable to afford important services which Israel is willing to provide – so I encourage all of us to work with the parties, in a coordinated manner, to reduce fiscal losses and ensure that the Palestinian Authority collects the taxes it is owed,” he explained.

“The Hubris of Hezbollah: How the militant group will fumble into the next Middle Eastern war” by Andrew Exum: “Israel knows it cannot intercept each and every shipment of arms. Sometimes the weather is too poor, or the intelligence too fuzzy, to act. And now Hezbollah is reportedly developing indigenous arms-making capabilities that will render cross-border shipments of advanced weaponry less necessary. So, for nearly two years now, Israeli military and intelligence officials have been warning every American official who comes through Tel Aviv and Jerusalem that the next war is coming. Israel has methodically prepared its allies—and most especially the Americans— for a very, very ugly war on the horizon… Hezbollah has grossly underestimated Israel, a mistake that will prove costly. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of Israelis could die in another conflict, but Israel isn’t going anywhere. This is existential for them. It will be the Lebanese who suffer immeasurably more.”[TheAtlantic]

“Putin Seeks Syria Deal That Both Iran and Israel Can Swallow” by Anshel Pfeffer: “According to well-placed sources in Moscow, Putin is planning to propose a formula to Netanyahu whereby no foreign country will be allowed to turn Syria into a platform for attacking neighboring states. This won’t go as far as Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran be prevented from establishing a permanent presence in Syria. If enforced, though, it would prevent them from establishing air and missile bases there. Netanyahu is unlikely to accept such a formula in public, but he is unlikely to have much of a choice.” [Haaretz] • U.S. Establishes Permanent Military Base in Israel [RealClearDefense]

** 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 Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Kushner Cos. Acquires New Jersey Apartment Complex for $190 Million [Bloomberg] Rubenstein Partners Sells 1000 Washington Street in Boston [BusinessInsider]  As ‘Diller Island’ Sinks, Whitney Plans Major Artwork on Hudson [NYTimes]

Exhibit Allows Virtual ‘Interviews’ With Holocaust Survivors: “An exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City called “New Dimensions in Testimony” uses hours of recorded high-definition video and language-recognition technology to create just that kind of “interview” with Eva Schloss, Anne Frank’s stepsister, and fellow survivor Pinchas Gutter. “What we’ve found is that it personalizes that history,” says concept designer Heather Smith. “You connect with that history in a different way than you would just seeing a movie or reading a textbook or hearing a lecture.” The project is a collaboration between the Steven Spielberg-founded Shoah Foundation, which has recorded nearly 52,000 interviews with Nazi-era survivors, and the Institute for Creative Technologies, both at the University of Southern California.” [AP]

“When Life Asks for Everything” by David Brooks: “Most religions and moral systems have aimed for self-quieting and, figuring that the great human problem is selfishness. But around the middle of the 20th century, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and others aimed to liberate and enlarge the self… Rabbi Wolfe Kelman’s life was fraught with every insecurity when he marched with Dr. King in Selma, but, he reported: “We felt connected, in song, to the transcendental, the ineffable. We felt triumph and celebration… That was a warming, transcendental spiritual experience. Meaning and purpose and mission were beyond exact words.”” [NYTimes]

“TV tonight: Seinfeld stand-up, Conan goes to Israel” by Kelly Lawler: Jerry Before Seinfeld Netflix: Jerry’s back. The comedian is debuting an intimate stand-up special on Netflix, the future home of his Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee series. The nostalgic special was filmed at The Comic Strip, the New York club that helped launched his career, and mixes new and archival material and even childhood videos… Conan Without Borders: Israel – TBS, 10 ET/PT: Conan O’Brien is on the move, again. The host of TBS’s Conan is taking his seventh international trip in the past two years, this time to Israel, where he visits Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other sites. The trip follows earlier sojourns to Mexico, South Korea and Cuba.” [USAToday; NYT

DESSERT: “Treif No More at Franklin Barbecue: Aaron Franklin goes kosher for the day” by Daniel Vaughn: “Last week, under the burned out shell of Franklin’s now-fireless pit room, this barbecue brain trust gathered to cook a trio of kosher briskets, the likes of which had never been attempted at Franklin. The idea was hatched during a brisket competition in Brooklyn. Franklin and I were judges, and agreed with the five others on the panel to crown Sruli “Izzy” Eidelman the Brisket King of New York. His duo of smoked brisket and pastrami, both of them kosher, wowed the judges. He celebrated with his friend and fellow kosher barbecue cook, Ari White, who took 2016’s title. Eidelman felt especially proud that judges from Texas had crowned his barbecue.” [TexasMonthly]

WSJ A1: “‘I Still Have Nightmares.’ The Dicey Future of Jarred Gefilte Fish” by Lucette Lagnado: “Traditional jar fans haven’t gone away by any means, but times and tastes have changed. In an artisanal food world, Manischewitz is struggling to make its shelf-stable product hook a new, more-finicky generation of eaters. Among its more popular innovations are gluten-free gefilte fish and a “Premium Gold” version. A new secret variation is yet to come. The emphatic response from Jewish foodies? Don’t bother. “I ate gefilte fish from the jar as a child,” says Chanie Apfelbaum, a gourmet cook and kosher blogger from Brooklyn. “I still have nightmares.”” [WSJ]

SPOTTED: Mrs. Sara Netanyahu at Reserve Cut, a kosher steakhouse in NYC’s Financial District, last night. [Pic]

BIRTHDAYS: Entrepreneur and philanthropist, co-founder with his brothers of a large industrial parts and electronic component distribution firm, Morton Mandel turns 96… Actor, writer and Dean Emeritus of the Drama School at Pace University, James Lipton turns 91… Professor of Jewish history and literature at Yeshiva University, he is the only son of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Haym Soloveitchik turns 80… Member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives since 2016, he was a professor of health management and policy at the University of New Hampshire, Jeffrey Colman Sallowayturns 76 (h/t Jeff Wice)… Professor at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law and director of the Innocence Project, he became famous as a member of O.J. Simpson’s defense team called the “Dream Team,” Barry Scheck turns 68… Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, after a 28 year Pentagon career as a Middle East expert, Harold Rhode turns 68… Reporter for the Voice of America, following a long career as the Washington correspondent for the Times-Picayune of New Orleans, Bruce Alpert turns 67… Stockton, California-based physician, he is Board certified in both sleep medicine and pulmonary medicine, he practices at The Pacific Sleep Disorders Center, Ronald Kass M.D. turns 65…

Reporter for The Wall Street Journal, she was born to a Jewish family in Cairo, Egypt, and wrote a prize-winning book about her childhood, Lucette Lagnado turns 61… Attorney at the Boston-based law firm of Weston Patrick, Mark A. Chapleau turns 57… Bow tie-clad field reporter for “Major League Baseball on Fox” since 2005, sportswriter and reporter Ken Rosenthal turns 55… Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington since 2001, Ronald Halber turns 49… Author of four popular business books, former small business columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Mike Michalowicz turns 47… Founder and CEO of MassChallenge (a startup accelerator), John Harthorne turns 44… Director of external relations at the DC-based bipartisan think tank, the Center for New American Security, Neal Urwitz turns 34 (h/t Playbook)…

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