September 22, 2018

Arnon Milchan: Hero or Anti-Hero?

FILE PHOTO: Israeli producer Arnon Milchan of New Regency Productions is shown in Los Angeles in this June 7, 2005 file photo. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/File Photo

Israeli author Meir Doron, who co-wrote an unauthorized biography on Arnon Milchan, was surprised to hear that the renowned Hollywood producer had been implicated in a bribery scandal involving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Feb. 13, Israeli police recommended bribery charges be brought against Netanyahu and Milchan. The allegation? That Milchan gave Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, almost a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of expensive gifts, including pink Champagne, cigars and jewelry in exchange for billions of dollars in tax breaks.

Doron, who moved to the United States in 1989, co-wrote a biography on Milchan published in 2011 titled  “Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan.” The book delves into Milchan’s double life as an arms dealer and a covert agent while producing movies starring the likes of Julia Roberts (“Pretty Woman”) and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith”).

Speaking with the Journal at his Encino home, Doron said he felt the allegations against Milchan were incongruous because it was the State of Israel that taught Milchan the art of bribery.

“Milchan was one of Israel’s most assertive and effective secret agents,” Doron said. “For years, he had given bribes in the millions to people in power, agents and state officials in order to advance Israel’s interests.”

“Arnon Milchan was one of Israel’s most assertive and effective secret agents.” — Meir Doron

Jewish Journal: Given your high opinion of Milchan and everything he did for the State of Israel, what was your immediate reaction to the bribery allegations?

Meir Doron: When I heard that they were talking about cigars and Champagne, I [thought those were ridiculous charges]. Really? Those are bribes? I wouldn’t have been surprised if he sent Netanyahu and his wife on a private yacht around the world, though. That’s how Milchan operates. It’s also how most producers operate in Hollywood. Milchan was always the wealthiest one in the group, the one who paid for everybody around the dinner table. It’s natural that when a wealthy friend comes to visit, he brings an expensive gift. Milchan did the same with other leaders he met throughout the years.

JJ: Do you think other Israeli leaders like the late President Shimon Peres, whom Milchan was also close to, received bribes?

MD: I have no doubt Peres, Yair Lapid and anyone else who was at the top of the government received benefits and gifts from Milchan.

JJ: But it’s only the gifts that Netanyahu received that are under scrutiny.

MD: These are things that are connected to inside politics in Israel. It started in the 1960s, when Milchan inherited a bankrupt company from his father. He learned pretty quickly how to navigate the Israeli bureaucracy in order to get special licenses, import and export credentials, and exceptional tax preferences. It was the key to his financial success.

JJ: So you think Israel should turn a blind eye to the allegations against Milchan because of everything he did for the country? 

MD: I think Israel owes it to him. He did more for Israel than any other Israeli politician. He also did more than any security personnel that serves today in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) or in Israel’s Security Agency.

Bibi’s Media Obsession

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks during an inauguration ceremony for a fortified emergency room at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, southern Israel, February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was always obsessed with the media. He was always at war with the media. He always put the media market at the top of his list of needed changes. For a politician (as Americans must know), fighting the media is not a bad strategy. But Netanyahu did not just fight it — Netanyahu strived to use his power to redesign the media market to his advantage. With one hand, he fought the media that was critical of him; with the other, he nurtured a media that could glorify him.

Fighting the media is not always a virtuous strategy, but also not always a condemnable one. Netanyahu had many good reasons to suspect that the established media was against him — and had reasons to assess that fighting back will buy him support among the people.

Things got murkier, and more problematic, when Netanyahu was actively using his influence and power as the prime minister to get himself a more adoring media. Murkier, because it is not always to separate a legitimate policy preference (to have a more open media market) from a less legitimate private interest (to have a media that writes adoringly about Netanyahu). Problematic, because Netanyahu, as the prime minister, can find ways to reward the media that writes adoringly about him and punish the media that remains critical of him.

Of course, almost all politicians reward media outlets they like (by giving them scoops, by leaking information to their journalists) and punish those they dislike (by denying them information). But Netanyahu went beyond that — or so the police suspect. He rewarded the tycoons that own the media by carving rules and legislation to serve their financial interests. That’s the essence of Case 4000 — not to be confused with the two cases against Netanyahu that made headlines last week (on Feb. 20, another case was added to the mix: an alleged attempt by a man close to Netanyahu to appoint a certain attorney general in exchange for closing an investigation against his wife, Sara).

The criminal aspect of this new case will be more difficult to prove.

Case 4000 is simple: A tycoon, Shaul Elovitch, owns many businesses in Israel, among them a very popular news website, Walla. The police argue that in exchange for positive coverage on this website, Netanyahu used his power as the prime minister, and as the minister of communication — a position he insisted on keeping himself — to benefit Elovitch. One example: Netanyahu allegedly used his influence to override antitrust claims to make Elovitch eligible to take over the satellite cable provider Yes.

There are things that will be easy to prove in this case. As far back as 2015, Haaretz investigative reporter Gidi Weitz convincingly demonstrated that Walla was highly favorable to Netanyahu. But that is not a crime. Any owner of any media outlet makes rules for his company, and if this particular tycoon decided that his media company will have a certain political flavor, it is not yet a matter for the police to investigate.

The criminal aspect of this new case will be more difficult to prove: Was there a clear quid pro quo? Did Netanyahu help a tycoon (and hurt the public) to get positive coverage? Proving that Netanyahu assisted Elovitch is not enough. He might have assisted him for good reasons, because these were proper deals in line with his policies. There needs to be proof that Netanyahu aided Elovitch for bad reasons, that he aided him in order to get positive coverage.

Fighting the media is not always a virtuous strategy, but also not always a condemnable one.

But what if Netanyahu had good and bad reasons? What if he can demonstrate that his decisions were all in line with his policies — and still a suspicion remains that the positive coverage gave him the extra incentive to work for the deals? Like many such cases, a lot depends on interpretation, on weighing the evidence. But in this case, unlike many such cases, the outcome will not be something that concerns only the suspects, because the outcome is a public matter. It could topple a government. It could ruin a ruling coalition.

Last week, the police recommended to change Netanyahu in Cases 1000 and 2000 (another case involving Netanyahu and his relations with the media). The prime minister pushed back and got what he needed — more time. His coalition partners agreed to reserve judgment until the attorney general makes the ultimate decision whether to charge the Netanyahu. They did not yet change their minds, but the prime minister knows that they can quickly do it.

So, on the one hand, Case 4000 is just another straw in a large pile of many straws. On the other hand, it could be the straw that breaks Netanyahu’s back.

Caroline Glick: Charges Against Netanyahu Are ‘Bogus’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the dedication ceremony of a new concourse at the Ben Gurion International Airport, near Lod, Israel February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israeli-American journalist Caroline Glick argued in a Feb. 14 column that the Israeli police’s recommendation of indicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over charges of corruption are “bogus” and are indicative of a grudge that the Israeli police have against Netanyahu.

The first case, Investigation 1000, involves Netanyahu allegedly accepting gifts from Hollywood movie mogul Arnon Milchen in exchange for Netanyahu supporting an extension of a law that exempts Israelis from paying taxes on income they earned elsewhere. Netanyahu is also said to have supported Milchen in possible business deals with Israeli television stations as well as urged then-Secretary of State John Kerry to renew Milchen’s U.S. visa.

Click argued in her column that with exception of advocating for Milchen’s visa renewal, Netanyahu never really acted on Milchen’s interests, and the visa renewal advocacy was justifiable.

“Milchen himself has a long record of service to Israel’s Mossad — its foreign spy service — and reportedly has contributed significantly to Israel’s defense,” Glick wrote. “Netanyahu claims that he acted out of respect for Milchen’s long service to Israel’s security. In addition, Israel’s late president and prime minister, left-wing icon Shimon Peres, also intervened on Milchen’s behalf with U.S. authorities.”

Investigation 2000, the second case, involves Netanyahu allegedly discussing a deal with Yediot Ahoronot publisher Arnon Mozes in which Mozes would have provided more positive coverage of Netanyahu if he supported a bill that would have hampered the circulation of Yediot Ahoronot’s competitor, Israel Hayom.

While there is a recording of the conversation, Glick notes that there is no evidence the discussed deal ever occurred, as Netanyahu vocally opposed the bill that Mozes wanted passed. In fact, “Netanyahu disbanded his government and the Knesset and called new elections a bit more than a year into his term” to ensure that the bill never saw the light of day.

“In other words, the police are recommending that Netanyahu be indicted for a conversation that went nowhere, which he recorded,” Glick wrote. “And the police are not investigating 42 out of the 43 lawmakers that supported a move that would have given Mozes everything he asked Netanyahu for, but didn’t receive, while the 43rd lawmaker was subject merely to a brief interrogation.”

Glick then pointed out that Israeli police have investigated Netanyahu and his wife multiple times during his stints as prime minister and none of them have ever produced anything substantial. She also noted that Israeli police chief Roni Alscheich leveled baseless claims against Netanyahu in a recent interview, including that the prime minister sent out private investigators against the police and that Netanyahu attempted to bribe Alscheich.

“Even the police’s most fervent media supporters were aghast at Alsheich’s allegations – coupled with the fact that he has refused to investigate any of them,” Glick wrote. “To summarize: just as the police were set to announce their recommendations, Alsheich made clear that he has a personal vendetta against Netanyahu and is prepared to overthrow his government.”

Glick concluded her column by noting that the Israeli Knesset has no way to provide oversight over the Israeli police, which differentiates it from the U.S. Congress’ oversight powers of the FBI.

Read the full column here.

H/T: Daily Wire

Is Bibi in Trouble?

Photo by Jim Hollander/Reuters

Feb. 12 was not a good day for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He was slapped on his right cheek by the U.S. administration — “reports that the United States discussed with Israel an annexation plan for the West Bank are false,” said the White House. But these were no “reports,” it was Netanyahu bragging to Likud Party members about his supposed discussion with the administration.

He was then slapped on his left cheek by Israel’s Supreme Court. There is no reason, the court said, to prevent the police from publicizing the conclusions it handed the attorney general in the Netanyahu legal investigation. The police do not have the power to decide if Netanyahu will be indicted. They do have the power to humiliate him and complicate his life by making the findings against him public.

Thus, a week that Netanyahu began as a leader, an orchestrator of bold military action, a statesman talking to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a restrained yet determined prime minister, appeared destined to deteriorate into a week he would end as a petty politician — chattering irresponsibly to party activists and stumbling into an unnecessary hitch with a friendly administration.

Then came Feb. 13. The police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for taking bribes. Within three days he turned from statesman to petty politician to suspected criminal — from Prime Minister Netanyahu to Bibi the Huckster.

Netanyahu believes his coalition will survive the first round of bad publicity from the police findings.

Netanyahu had to deal with each of these developments separately. To the Americans he quickly apologized, clarifying that he did not really mean what he said, or maybe didn’t say what he meant. What he wanted to say was, in fact, a responsible thing: This is not the time to discuss and advance the annexation of West Bank territory, and he is not going to allow it. But since saying such a thing in such a blunt way is politically tricky — the prime minister needs to keep his right-wing flank quiet while dealing with his legal troubles — he utilized the Trump administration to make his position sound less dovish. Clearly, this was a miscalculation.

His legal troubles are another matter. In a long and hearty TV appearance on the evening of Feb. 13, Netanyahu rejected each of the allegations against him. The details are quite tedious: Did he support this or that legislation for this or that reason? Did he give favors in exchange for cigars? The one worthy piece of news from the evening was the fact that Netanyahu’s main political rival, Yair Lapid, is a key witness in the case against him. Netanyahu is likely to utilize this fact to his advantage, as any suspect would.

Netanyahu believes his coalition will survive the first round of bad publicity from the publication of the police findings. No party has reason to rock the boat, and no party will gain from having a new election. In fact, the opposite is true: Most of the parties can only lose. They lose if they have to renegotiate what they already have — because of a similar election outcome. They lose if they have to contend with a less friendly, less coherent coalition. So for the time being, while the attorney general ponders Netanyahu’s legal future, the prime minister seems politically safe.

It is impossible to know at this stage if Netanyahu’s coalition can survive until the regularly scheduled elections two years from now. The attorney general is expected to decide on Netanyahu’s case by the middle of this year. The prime minister could decide to pre-empt such a decision if he were to call for a new election and get re-elected. After all, in such a scenario he would be elected when the public would already be aware of his supposed crimes and would still want him as its leader. Preempting the legal process could mean a decision on a new election in early spring, and the actual vote in early 2019.

Or, Netanyahu could decide to withstand a decision to indict him and remain at the helm while standing trial. This has never been done before, and political pressure on his coalition partners could prove it futile, but Netanyahu believes it would be legal (only the Supreme Court could thwart such a belief) and maybe even manageable. Like him, the other parties read the polls and see that another election would apparently give the current coalition more than half the seats in the Knesset and would make it highly complicated for other coalitions to form.

Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at

Police Recommend Indictment Against Netanyahu

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Gali Tibbon/Pool/File Photo

Israeli police announced on Feb. 13 that they are recommending that the attorney general indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for corruption, fraud and breach of trust.

The recommendation stems from two investigations. The first involved Netanyahu allegedly accepting illicit gifts from wealthy patrons and the second being that Netanyahu discussed a deal with Yediot Aharonot newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes about passing legislation that would have hampered the circulation of Israel Hayom, a competitor to Arnon Mozes, if Mozes provided more positive coverage toward Netanyahu.

Additionally, the police recommended indicting Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood mogul who allegedly gave Netanyahu gifts for a U.S. visa and Netanyahu’s support for a law that would allow Israelis who returned the country after living elsewhere to avoid paying taxes for 10 years, for bribery. Yair Lapid, a leader of Yesh Atid, is a key witness in this matter.

The police are also recommended that Mozes be indicted for bribery in the alleged deal between him and Netanyahu.

The decision on whether or not to indict Netanyahu falls into the hands of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, a decision that could take a while. Mandelblit was criticized by members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for preventing Israeli forces when as Military Advocate General, he prevented the IDF from bombing a key Hamas location over the possibility of civilian casualties in 2008.

Netanyahu has insisted that the allegations are baseless.

“Nothing will divert me from my commitment to the good of the nation,” Netanyahu said in an address. “I have not known a day in office without vicious allegations against me and my family.”

Report: Israeli Police Will Recommend Indicting Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem January 28, 2018. REUTERS/Tsafrir Abayov/Pool

Israeli media is reporting that police will recommend indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for corruption, although Netanyahu is downplaying the recommendations.

According to Ynet, “Police chiefs are in unanimous agreement that there is sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu for bribe taking in Case 1,000 or the so-called ‘gifts affair.’” The announcement is expected to happen on either Feb. 12 or 13.

The “gifts affair” case involves Netanyahu allegedly accepting “illicit gifts”; for instance there is a report of Netanyahu asking for cigars during a meeting of extending the U.S. visa for Hollywood movie producer Arnon Milchan, who gave Netanyahu “hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne.”

Israeli law allows the prime minister to receive “small” and “reasonable” gifts, but there is some gray area as to what gifts fall under this purview.

Netanyahu assured Israelis in a Facebook video that nothing will come of the recommendation, as the attorney general has to decide whether or not to follow through on the recommendation.

“I am certain that in the end of the day, the legal authorities can only reach one conclusion, the simple truth: There is nothing,” said Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is also being investigated about a possible deal discussed between him and a newspaper publisher of the paper providing more positive coverage of Netanyahu in exchange for the passage of a law that would hurt the paper’s main competitor. The police are expected to punt the issue to state prosecution.

Throughout the investigation into both matters, Netanyahu has maintained that he has not committed any wrongdoing.

“The witch-hunt to topple the government is in full swing but it will fail because of this simple reason: There will be nothing because there was nothing,” Netanyahu’s office said in an August statement.

Senior Settler Leader Talks Trump

Oded Revivi. Photo by Yesha Council/JTA

For the first time in American history, a senior settler leader from Israel was formally invited to the inauguration of the president of the United States. This inauguration was, of course, that of Donald Trump, and the guest was Oded Revivi.

The affable Revivi, 49, serves as both chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council (the official body representing more than 406,000 Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria) and mayor of Efrat, a modern Orthodox settlement town south of Jerusalem. He sat near the front to witness the swearing-in ceremony and now enjoys close ties with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Trump adviser on Israel Jason Greenblatt.

And while this is the first time an American administration has actively engaged settler leaders, Revivi is not sure Trump’s showering of goodwill on Israel, particularly with his announcement on moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, will necessarily translate into rapid settlement expansion any time soon.

“The right wing in Israel, in my view, was too quick to celebrate the victory of President Trump,” Revivi told the Journal, speaking from his office in Efrat just hours before attending Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at the Knesset on Jan. 22. “They were right in celebrating the victory because the other option would be much worse, but the assumption that President Trump is Santa Claus who’ll be able to deliver everything we dream about was not grounded in reality.”

“The assumption that President Trump is Santa Claus who’ll be able to deliver everything we dream about was not grounded in reality.” — Oded Revivi

So far under the Trump administration, no new building permits have been granted for Efrat, although two new neighborhoods have been in construction in the past two years that will allow Efrat to grow from 10,000 residents to 16,000.

“In my understanding — and I’ve had quite a few meetings with the prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu], and I try to understand what are American guidelines for building in Judea and Samaria — it seems to me President Trump said to the prime minister something along the lines of parents wanting a child to play nicely, when the parent says: ‘I know you know how to behave.’ The reaction of the child is to freeze in his place because he doesn’t know what his boundaries are.”

Revivi was elected in 2008 (and re-elected in 2013) by a constituency eager for Efrat’s expansion, but upon stepping into this new role after a decadeslong career as a lawyer, Revivi’s main task was to ensure Efrat was well-managed. Efrat is among the more socio-economically successful settlements.

The nature of Revivi’s role as mayor, as well as his fluent English, made him the natural successor to Dani Dayan, currently Consul General of Israel in New York. Revivi lived in the U.S. and England as a child while his parents served as Jewish Agency emissaries, and his wife is British.

Revivi takes nongovernmental organizations, congressmen, AIPAC representatives and other decision-makers throughout Efrat in part to dispel settler stereotypes.

“The vast majority of people living in Judea and Samaria move here for financial reasons, social reasons, not because of ideological reasons,” he said.

Himself included. He moved with his family in 1993 in large part for affordable housing, although that has changed in Efrat. Demand is high and real estate prices in Efrat now exceed those in many Jerusalem neighborhoods. Revivi believes quality of life for all, Jews and Arabs alike, should be the main factor in any discussion about peace in the region.

“That’s why we have to find a new approach, a new solution, which isn’t on the table in the moment,” Revivi said.

The Father, the Son and the Unholy Spirits (and Strippers)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem January 7, 2018. REUTERS/Abir Sultan/Pool

“It is a family matter,” argued White House spokesman Scott McClellan. The year was 2001, and President George W. Bush’s twin 19-year-old daughters had just been caught by the police as they were trying to buy alcohol illegally at a Mexican restaurant.

It is a “witch hunt,” complained Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when a tape surfaced, documenting how his son Yair got drunk, associated with the offspring of wealthy Israelis, attended strip clubs and appeared to offer these fun bodies sexual favors from a female friend in exchange for money.

The Netanyahu scandal is louder. And it rests on several separate pillars of unease: 1. Netanyahu the son was having fun with the son of a tycoon who highly benefited from decisions made by Netanyahu the father. 2. The son is protected by Israel’s security agencies. 3. He was going to strip clubs and was having a night of debauchery that civilized people rightly condemn.

Yair Netanyahu is private citizen. He has no official role. On the other hand, it is well known that he lives in the official residence of the prime minister, that he advises his father, that he is involved in the wheeling and dealing of his father’s politics. Israelis pay his rent, they pay for his security.

This is a nasty affair. It is gossipy. It leaves an aftertaste.

This is a nasty affair. It is gossipy. It leaves an aftertaste. The behavior of a group of young and privileged Israelis is exposed, and it is disgusting. The prime minister’s son sounds like a punk, and one would hope that he is truly ashamed of it, as his statement seems to suggest: “These words do not represent who I am, the values I was raised on, or the principles I believe in. I regret saying them and apologize if anyone was offended by them,” young Netanyahu stated.

Other than that, there is very little substance to this scandal. The banter concerning Israel’s gas deal — Netanyahu asks the son of a businessman to “spot him” pocket money in return for the gas deal that benefited the tycoon businessman — is, well, banter. The strip club visit is something that many other young, and older, Israelis do. The dirty talk and denigrating comments are no worse than those uttered by the sitting president of the United States. We could feel for the security guards, tasked with wasting their nights watching this guy, but the issue with them is strictly professional: If there is an Israeli interest in protecting Netanyahu’s son, then they must be there.

In fact, the most troubling aspect of this affair is the impact it could have on the prime minister. On the night the scandal broke out, the Knesset passed highly controversial legislation that could ban the opening of stores on Shabbat. On that same night (and this is more serious), Israel — reportedly — sent its air force to attack an army base outside Damascus.

When such decisions are made, Israel needs an experienced and cool-headed leader, and what this leader’s son does, or how he behaves, or what language he uses, is completely irrelevant. Let Netanyahu the father be the prime minister. Ignore his son, one of many rotten apples. But there is another side to this equation: When such decisions are made, Israel needs a clear-headed leader. It needs a leader who is not too preoccupied with investigations (Netanyahu serves under the cloud of several investigations), it needs a leader who is not too preoccupied with the need to discipline his son, or to draft statements responding to reports of his son’s ugly behavior.

Of course, such preoccupation with side shows is a double dagger. Netanyahu argues that the news media, by wasting the time of citizens and his own time on nonsense such as Yair’s strip club affair, are disserving Israel. He is certain that everything said against him is connected: the police investigations, the family scandals, the Tel Aviv rallies against corruption — all are part of a mounting effort by his rivals to dethrone him. His rivals make the opposite argument: The police investigations, the family scandals, the Tel Aviv rallies all prove that Netanyahu can no longer be prime minister. That he can no longer function. That he can no longer be trusted to make decisions based on Israel’s interests, as his main motivation is political survival.

Hence, the scandal. Hence, the debate over whether the scandal is worthy of its scandalous status.

U.N. Denounces Trump’s Jerusalem Move in Vote

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during the United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including Palestine, at U.N. Headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The United Nations voted on a resolution to condemn President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The resolution passed by a margin of 128 in favor and 9 against, with 35 abstentions and 21 countries that didn’t vote at all. The nine countries who voted against the resolution were the United States, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Tongo, Honduras, Guatemala ans Palau. Among those voted in favor of the resolution included Britain, France, Germany and Turkey, and Canada and Mexico were among those that abstained.

Here is the full record of how each country voted:

Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the U.N., had some sharp words for the U.N.

“The United States will remember this day, in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” said Haley. “We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

Haley also pointed out that the U.S. “is by far the single largest contributor to the U.N.” and suggested that their funding to the U.N. could be reduced or withdrawn altogether in light of the vote.

“When we make generous contributions to the UN, we also have a legitimate expectation that our goodwill is recognize and respected,” said Haley. “When a nation is singled out for attack in this organization, that nation is disrespected. What’s more, that nation is asked to pay for the privilege of being disrespected. In the case of the US, we are asked to pay more than anyone else for that dubious privilege.”

Haley also criticized the U.N. as being “a hostile place for the state of Israel.”

“It’s a wrong that undermines the credibility of this institution and that, in turn, is harmful for the entire world,” said Haley.

Haley made it clear in her speech that the vote will not deter the U.S. from moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, Trump suggested that the U.S. could reduce funding to countries that voted in favor of the resolution.

“They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us,” said Trump. “Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also criticized the vote, blasting the U.N. as “the house of lies.” Netanyahu also thanked Trump, Haley and the countries that voted with Israel.

Journal columnist Ben Shapiro pointed out on Twitter that Thursday’s vote is in line with the U.N.’s record of anti-Israel bias:


Netanyahu Thanks Nikki Haley for Vetoing Anti-Israel Resolution

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks during an event marking "The Appreciation for the Fallen of Israel's Wars and Victims of Terrorism Day" at the Knesset, Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israeli Prime Minister Benjaim Netanyahu put forward a video thanking Nikki Haley, the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations, for vetoing an anti-Israel U.N. resolution.

The resolution, put forward by Egypt, would have rendered President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his plan to eventually move the U.S. embassy there as “null and void” and prevented “the establishment of diplomatic missions” in Jerusalem.

But Haley prevented it from going into effect by wielding the U.S.’s veto power, and Netanyahu expressed his gratitude to her.

“On Hanukkah, you spoke like a Maccabi,” Netanyahu said in a video. “You lit a candle of truth. You dispel the darkness. One defeated the many. Truth defeated lies.”

When Haley issued the veto, she declared, “The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy,” adding that “it’s scandalous to say we are putting back peace efforts.”

“The fact that this veto is being done in defense of American sovereignty and in defense of America’s role in the Middle East peace process is not a source of embarrassment for us,” said Haley. “It should be an embarrassment to the remainder of the Security Council.”

Danny Danon, the Israeli U.N. ambassador, also criticized the resolution.

“While the Jewish people celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah that symbolizes the eternal connection to Jerusalem, there are people who think that they can rewrite history,” said Danon. “It’s time for all countries to recognize that Jerusalem always was and always will be the capital of the Jewish people and the capital of Israel.”

Before the U.S. used its veto power, 14 countries voted in favor of the resolution, including Britain and France.

Netanyahu BLASTS Iran Over Forcing Wrestler to Forfeit: ‘Hating Others Will Never Make You a Champion’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem December 3, 2017. REUTERS/Sebastian Scheiner/Pool

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video on Monday blasting the Iranian regime for forcing one of their wrestlers to forfeit a match so he wouldn’t have to face an Israeli.

Netanyahu began the video by recounting the story of Alireza Karimi-Machiani, who was on the path toward easily defeating Russian wrestler Alikhan Zhabrailov until his coach ordered him to quit the match, as Iran prohibits its athletes from facing any Israelis in a sporting match.

“Close your eyes and think about Alireza for a moment,” said Netanyahu. “He trained countless hours. He dreamed of becoming a world champion. But the Iranian regime would rather see its athletes lose than compete against Israelis.”

Netanyahu then put forth a suggestion to help prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

“I want you to film yourself playing a sport against someone of a different nationality, a different faith, a different color,” said Netanyahu. “I want you to compete like hell – we’re all for competition. Then I want you to shake hands, go out for a drink together and then upload this to social media.

Netayanhu continued, “I want you to show Iran’s regime that hating others will never make you a champion. It only makes you a pathetic and insecure loser.”

The Israeli prime minister provided some uplifting words for Karimi-Machiani.

“The tyrants who made you take a fall will fall themselves,” declared Netanyahu. “A regime that crushes the creative and competitive spirits of its people – that regime is doomed.”

The full video can be seen below:

When Karimi-Machiani was forced to forfeit the match, he lamented that he had trained for “months” and that “achieving a world medal is the only happiness for any of us.”

“Would it not be oppression if our authorities undermine my hard work again?” the Iranian wrestler told the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA).

Evidence of Hoopla

Israeli Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem November 26, 2017. REUTERS/Gali Tibbon/Pool

Timing isn’t everything, but it’s a lot. And the timing of recent action by Israel’s coalition government is more than suspicious.

On Nov. 27, the Knesset approved — on the first vote of the necessary three — new legislation that could potentially impact the ongoing, high-profile investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The new law, if it ultimately passes, is aimed to prevent the police from making a specific recommendation as to whether to indict a suspect when an investigation has ended and leave this matter to the attorney general.

Timing isn’t everything, but it’s a lot. And supporters of the new legislation would acknowledge it — of course, not on the record. However, they will say, the law is necessary and proper, and it cuts both ways. It helps these supporters that these special times — when the party in charge has an interest in passing it — also make it viable.

Indeed, they have a point, and their position raises an important question: Should a citizen be in favor of legislation he deems proper even though the timing of passing it is improper? To put it  differently: Is it obligatory to oppose a law one deems necessary because of the suspicious circumstances of its passing?

If there is a reason for indictment, the new law will not save the prime minister.

For people living in the practical world, this is not an easy choice. We know from history that murky, questionable circumstances often prompt important legislation. In this case, though, one first has to accept the premise that the new legislation has merit beyond saving Netanyahu from being publically censured by the police after the investigation is over.

So, is it justified? Consider the case of Netanyahu’s chief of staff, Gil Sheffer. About a year ago, Sheffer was accused of sexual assault. The police investigated the accusation and came up with a clear recommendation: We have the evidence; Sheffer ought to be indicted. For almost a year, Sheffer walked around crowned with this wreath of thorns until a decision was made by state attorneys: There was not enough evidence to indict him — he was off the hook. But no one can compensate him for those 10 months under scrutiny.

Supporters of the new legislation will point to this case, and others, in which public humiliation over a decision by the police — who have the authority to investigate but not to indict — ended with a whimper. These supporters would like the police simply to do their job, which under the circumstances covered by this law is to investigate and hand the material to the state attorneys without recommendation.

It is thus plausible to defend this legislation on its merits. It also is not difficult to understand why Netanyahu and his political operators would see such a law as potentially beneficial for the prime minister. It can buy him time. If the police hand evidence against him to the attorney general without making any specific recommendation, the court of public opinion will have to be more patient and wait until the end of the legal process to see if the prime minister is going to stand trial.

As usual, there is a lot of political hoopla involved in the discussions surrounding this legislation. The prime minister’s associates lost all shame as they promoted this law with the urgency they should save for more crucial matters. The prime minister’s opponents refuse to acknowledge the fact that this law has reasoning and merit — beyond its highly problematic timing.

And as often happens with new legislation, too many hopes are hanging by a thin thread. If there is a reason for indictment, the new law will not save the prime minister. In fact, it will not even prevent the media and the public from getting enough information when the investigation is over to make their own determination as to whether Netanyahu should be indicted. Leaks, insinuation and speculation will be the substitute for police recommendation.

So if the law passes, Israel merely will be substituting one problematic procedure (police recommendation) for another (public speculation).

Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at

The Radical Impact of Centrism

Centrism is often no more than a facade. A way of portraying one’s views as more legitimate than the views of others. But centrism can also be real. It can be a practical way for a leader or a politician to cast a net with which to capture as many voters as possible. It can be an ideological belief that the center — avoiding the extremes — is the most commendable way of policy-making.

The center is, of course, a moving target, as two Israeli leaders proved in the last couple of weeks. Earlier this week, President Reuven Rivlin exposed himself to a vicious attack from some right-wing quarters by refusing to pardon Elor Azaria, a soldier convicted of manslaughter. His portrait wearing a kaffiyeh — reminiscent of posters preceding the Yitzhak Rabin assassination more than two decades ago — was posted on social media. He was accused of leftism, of weakness.

The center is, of course, a moving target.

Rivlin does not need votes, so there is no conceivable electoral calculation behind his decision. Still, his critics would not grant him the benefit of the doubt. They assume that he does what he does to win the approval of liberal intellectuals, or the media, or the international court of public opinion, or all of the above.

A few days earlier, another Israeli leader disappointed and angered many Israelis belonging to his supposed camp. This time, it was the leader of the left-center Labor Party. He did so by criticizing his camp using a phrase that was made infamous by Benjamin Netanyahu in his first term as prime minister in the 1990s. Netanyahu, back then, whispered in a well-known rabbi’s ears: “The leftists forgot how to be Jewish.” Avi Gabbay, leader of the Labor Party, echoed these words in a somewhat clumsy attempt to hint that Netanyahu had a point — that the left cannot win election in Israel if, rather than owning Judaism, it will run away from it.

Gabbay is not in the same position as Rivlin. He is an up-and-coming leader of a struggling party, attempting to bend it rightward to make it more acceptable to more Israelis, and possibly making it, once again, a real political alternative to the rule of Likud. Gabbay might believe that centrism is better, but he surely sees a practical need to edge toward the center.

In both of these cases, the camp supposedly suspicious of Rivlin and Gabbay was the camp praising their actions. Israel’s opposition hailed Rivlin for being principled and for not surrendering to the right-wing mob. Israel’s coalition hailed Gabbay for finally admitting the grave deficiency of his own camp. In both cases, this was a misfortune: Rivlin’s message is more relevant to the right, which seems all too wiling to forget and forgive a soldier who defied orders and shot to death an unarmed (but not innocent) man. Gabbay’s message is more relevant to the left, which seems all too willing to forget and forgo Jewish traditions and culture in pursuit of universalist ideologies.

Should we consider these two leaders to be centrists because of their decision to move away from their initial base of support and toward an imaginary (or maybe real) center? Or maybe these leaders are radicals, who boldly defy convention and a base of support, to follow a path they believe is the right path.

The answer in this case is both. That is to say: In today’s world, being a centrist is often more radical than all other options. Netanyahu does nothing radical when he plays to his base of support and gives his voters what they want. The leaders of a leftist party such as Meretz do nothing radical when they also play to their base of support and drag them away from the Israeli consensus and into the land of political impotence. Rivlin and Gabbay try something bolder — to see if by being centrists they can also nudge their audiences toward centrism, moderation and relevance.

Whether they chose the topic or the right phrase to make their case is a good question. The reaction to their respective decisions was hardly encouraging, and hence I am not certain the answer to this question is positive. But the sentiment is commendable. Yes, Israel should not be a place where soldiers shoot unarmed terrorists without proper cause and where the mob supportive of them makes the rules. Yes, Israel should not be a place where opposition to the government means abandonment of Jewish traditions and culture. Radical centrism is needed.

Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at

Israel Offers Aid to Iran-Iraq Earthquake Victims, Iran Rejects It

A man walks past a damaged building following an earthquake in Darbandikhan in Sulaimaniya Governorate, Iraq, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Israel offered to provide aid to the victims of Sunday’s earthquake at the Iran-Iraq border, but Iran rejected Israel’s offer for help.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video on Wednesday explaining that “as a father, as an Israeli, as a Jew, I wanted to help.”

“Israel has no quarrel with the people of Iran,” said Netanyahu. “We never have. Our only quarrel is with the cruel Iranian regime, a regime that holds its people hostage, a regime that threatens our people with annihilation.”

Netanyahu added that Israel has a history of providing humanitarian aid worldwide, including “Haiti, Phillippines, Mexico” and those who have been afflicted by the Syrian civil war.

“We do all this for one reason: we do it because it’s the right thing to do,” said Netanyahu. “Too many times in my people’s history, the world failed to act when it could, the world failed to do the right thing. So we have a special sensitivity to help those in need.”

Netanyahu concluded the video by noting that Israel’s constant humanitarian aid shows the true nature of Israel.

“This is Israel,” said Netanyahu. “Compassionate. Caring. Kind.”

An anonymous official from Netanyahu’s office told the Times of Israel that Iran shot down Israel’s offer for aid.

“This shows the true face of the Iranian regime,” said the official.

Iran also rejected Israel’s offer for aid in 2003 after an earthquake killed over 26,000 people.

Sunday’s earthquake registered at a 7.3 magnitude, killing 500 people and wounding almost 8,000.

Netanyahu, Rivlin and Others Offer Insights at GA

Richard V. Sandler and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin Photo courtesy of JFNA

The 2017 General Assembly (GA) featured three giants of Israeli leadership — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky.

Netanyahu’s appearance on the final day of the three-day gathering was virtual, as he participated in a live conversation via satellite. The Nov. 14 interview conducted by Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) Chair Richard Sandler marked the conclusion of the GA.

During a 15-minute conversation, Netanyahu said he appreciates U.S. President Donald Trump’s stance on Iran as well as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley’s willingness to fight against Israel bias.

But he specifically stressed that his issues with Iran are with the country’s leadership, not its people. In fact, he said he had just announced hours earlier that Israel would provide medical assistance to the Red Cross to aid in the recovery effort for Iranians and Iraqis after the recent earthquake on the Iranian-Iraqi border.

“We have no quarrel with the people of Iran,” Netanyahu said. “Our quarrel is only with the tyrannical regime that holds them hostage and threatens our destruction.”

Rivlin, whose in-person appearance on Nov. 13 prompted ramped up security, discussed the need for Israel and Diaspora Jewry to work together in confronting anti-Semitism.

“We are one nation,” he said, appearing before a backdrop decorated with Los Angeles landmarks, including the Hollywood sign, the Capitol Records building, the downtown skyline and the Santa Monica Pier. “As one nation, we shall continue to fight together against anti-Semitism in all its forms; from the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, to terror attacks against our brothers and sisters around the world, from BDS [the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement] on campuses, to attacking Israel’s legitimacy in the U.N. There is no room for hesitation; we must continue the fight against it as one united front.”

As he walked on the GA stage on Nov. 14, shortly before Netanyahu’s appearance, Sharansky, a living legend who escaped the Soviet Union, drew a standing ovation. In a heavy accent, he said how important it was that there was Jewish unity in America during the time of the free Soviet Jewry movement.

“As one nation, we shall continue to fight together against anti-Semitism in all its forms.” — Reuven Rivlin

“That’s how the struggle was developed. That’s why for many years in prison, whenever the KGB was trying to tell me I was alone, I knew the Jewish people were behind me,” he said.

That sense of a need for Jewish unity carried through other sessions at the GA. The previous day, during a panel titled “Philanthropy, Politics and Federation,” Jay Sanderson, CEO and president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said Jews need to stand together in the face of challenges — and how they do it is important.

“A lot of people in the community want us to be their voice, but their voice is not every voice,” Sanderson said, explaining the role of Federation is to be a convener, not to release statements about political situations.

Sanderson’s remarks followed a discussion about the backlash the L.A. Federation faced after releasing a statement of opposition to the Iran deal during the Obama years.

Tablet Magazine founder and editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse, participating on the panel with Sanderson, said she wished Jews, even when they disagreed, would be willing to lose an argument with each other for the sake of unity.

“I think the challenge for Federation is in trying to relay that message, trying to explain to people in fact their voice is going to be heard much more clearly and much more loudly when they have solidarity with other Jews,” she said.

We, the Pickles

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations on Sept. 19. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s most memorable phrase of the past week — the phrase for which his speech at the opening of the winter session of the Knesset will be remembered — is untranslatable.

Yes, you can call it the “pickles speech,” but this makes no sense. In Hebrew, “pickles” is “chamutzim.” In Hebrew, “chamutzim” is also “sourpuss.” So, the “pickles speech” (in Hebrew, “Ne’um HaChamutzim”) is truly the “sourness speech.”

Netanyahu mocked his rivals by calling them “pickles,” as he blamed them for being irreparably sour and dissatisfied. “You are constantly grousing,” Netanyahu said about them, “attacking and nitpicking. … You deal with nonsense, but you know deep down that in democratic elections, we will win.”

Yet the chief pickle of the day was not the usual opposition leader or some party hack. It was Israel’s president, a Likud Party veteran, Reuven Rivlin. Without mentioning Netanyahu or his party by name, Rivlin harshly criticized the attitude of the ruling majority and its tendency to treat all criticism as politically motivated and hence illegitimate. “The media is political, the democratic institutions — everything from the [civil service] professionals to the state comptroller — political,” Rivlin said. “The Supreme Court is political, the security forces are political. And is even the IDF, our Israel Defense Forces, political? The entire country and its institutions are filled with politics.”

The debate between these two leaders was as profound as it was personal.

The debate between these two leaders was as profound as it was personal. They clearly dislike each other, but that’s beside the point. What they say is what’s important, and what they say it what’s disturbing.

Rivlin, rightly, feels that his party and former friends lost their way, and lost their sense of stately responsibility. He did not say this in such words, but what he meant was: You all have become party hacks, no longer caring for the country and its people, only caring for maintaining your government.

Netanyahu, rightly, feels that no matter what he does, his critics grumble. If the economy is doing well, he does not get credit. If Israel is strong, he does not get credit. If terrorism is contained, war is avoided, relations with the United States are solid and Israel’s position in the world improves, he does not get credit.

Both of these leaders lost their trust in the good faith of important institutions — a disease of our time (see this week’s number on the right side of the page). Rivlin, for example, does not believe that the government is acting in good faith to better Israel when it attempts to rein in the Supreme Court’s activists. Netanyahu does not believe that police are acting in good faith to better Israel when they investigate his deeds and misdeeds.

This is a disturbing sentiment, because trust is all a government has in a democratic society. Without the general trust of the public, it cannot properly function. If citizens do not trust the police, they will not complain, nor tell it the truth. If citizens do not trust the courts, they will not accept their verdicts. If citizens do not trust the government, they will search for ways to circumvent the government — to change the rules or ignore them.

Lack of trust is a dangerous disease because it is very hard to heal. Netanyahu is unlikely to heal it, because of his belief that every attempt to mend the differences will be a sign of weakness and used against him. Rivlin is unlikely to heal it because the minute he steps into this minefield, he becomes a suspect in the eyes of those who see conspiracies and enemies around them. The opposition is unlikely to heal it, because it has political motivations that it rarely resists — namely, when opportunity to politicize an issue presents itself, the opposition usually jumps on it and thus reveals its un-stately motivations.

Maybe the next leader, after Netanyahu, can do something to mend this sense of mistrust. Maybe, but Netanyahu is not going away without a fight. Why would he, when all he sees around him are blunt attempts to dethrone him by means other than winning an election — investigations, insinuations, allegations, exaggerations and the pickiness of pickles? n

Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at

Iran to continue missile program, calls Trump ‘featherbrained’

A ballistic missile seen at a military parade in Tehran on Sept. 22. Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Iran has vowed to continue its missile program and called President Trump “featherbrained” in light of his recent actions toward Iran.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) issued a statement that read, “Iran’s ballistic missile program will expand and it will continue with more speed in reaction to Trump’s hostile approach towards this revolutionary organization.”

On October 13, Trump announced that he was going to decertify the Iran nuclear deal and that his Treasury Department would slap the IRGC with sanctions for involvement in terror activity, although he did not explicitly designate them as a terror organization.

The IRGC denounced the sanctions in the statement.

“Imposing cruel sanctions against the Guards and hostile approach of the rogue and brute president [Trump] shows the failure of America and the Zionist regime’s wicked policies in the region,” the statement read.

The IRGC also called Trump “featherbrained.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif recently tweeted, “Iranians–boys, girls, men, women–are ALL IRGC; standing firm with those who defend us & the region against aggression & terror.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chastised Zarif in a video, telling the Iranian foreign minister to “delete your account.”

“I’m sure that ordinary Iranian mothers and fathers wouldn’t have blown up a Jewish community center in Argentina filled with little children, because that’s what the Revolutionary Guard did,” said Netanyahu. “I’m sure that ordinary Iranians want to live in peace and don’t want their government to shoot students in the streets, hang gays in cranes, torture journalists in prison.”

Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, recently warned of Iran’s “repeated ballistic missile launches.”

“When a rogue regime starts down the path of ballistic missiles, it tells us that we will soon have another North Korea on our hands,” said Haley.

Netanyahu to Iran’s foreign minister: ‘Delete your account’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on July 30. Photo by Amir Cohen/Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a simple message for Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday: “Delete your account.”

Netanyahu was responding to a tweet from Zarif stating that “Iranians–boys, girls, men, women–are ALL IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]; standing firm with those who defend us & the region against aggression & terror.” The Israeli prime minister pointed out the tweet’s irony given that “the regime bans them from using Twitter.”

“Apparently, I have a higher opinion of the Iranian people than their leaders,” said Netanyahu in a video.

Netanyahu proceeded to highlight some of the heinous actions committed by the IRGC and Iranian regime.

“I’m sure that ordinary Iranian mothers and fathers wouldn’t have blown up a Jewish community center in Argentina filled with little children, because that’s what the Revolutionary Guard did,” said Netanyahu, referencing the 1994 bombing of Buenos Aires’ AIMA Jewish community center. “I’m sure that ordinary Iranians want to live in peace and don’t want their government to shoot students in the streets, hang gays in cranes, torture journalists in prison.”

Netanyahu then declared that “one day the Iranian people will be free” and concluded the video by telling Zarif: “Delete your account.”

The full video can be seen below, via the Times of Israel:

On Friday, President Trump slapped the IRGC with sanctions for being complicit in terrorism, although he didn’t’ specifically label them as a terrorist organization.

Episode 60 – Let’s Talk Bibi

It can be safely said that Benjamin Netanyahu is one of the most controversial figures in Israeli politics. He’s seen by many as the savior of the Jewish people while many others consider him the antithesis to everything democratic and Israeli. He’s worshiped, he’s cursed. He’s praised and he’s ridiculed. One thing is for sure, no one is indifferent to Bibi.

It’s only fitting that such a leader would be embroiled in corruption charges for most of his political career. Most recently, the cases nicknamed cases 1000 through 4000 have intermittently surfaced in the headlines here in Israel and around the world. Cigars and champagne, German submarines, secret deals for favorable coverage, conflicts of interest, conflicts of interest, conflicts of interest.

However, Netanyahu is also held up as one of the great leaders of our time. He’s hailed for taking a hardline against some of Israel’s staunchest critics and most hostile enemies. His international diplomacy is unrivaled in the Israeli political sphere. His free market capitalism and the policies he set in motion during his tenure as Finance Minister are credited by many with restoring Israel’s economy after the Second Intifada.

So it’s about time: we need to talk about Bibi.

Lahav Harkov is the Senior Knesset Reporter and Analyst for The Jerusalem Post. She’s often invited to lecture on Israeli Government and Politics in Israel and abroad. The BBC, France 24, Sky News and many others have sought her insights about breaking news. She’s published articles in CommentaryThe New York PostTablet and Makor Rishon, just to name a few. And she was recently recognized by the JTA as the 5th-most influential person on “Jewish Twitter.”

Lahav Harkov joins us today to help tackle the man that is Bibi… not literally.

Lahav’s Twitter and FB

(Photo credit: the Kremlin)

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After Trump’s third meeting with Netanyahu, experts perplexed with approach

President Donald Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on Sept. 18. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Even back in 2004, when Donald Trump was the host of the reality television show The Apprentice, the real estate developer expressed supreme confidence in his ability to solve the decades long Israeli-Arab conflict. Trump told former Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry that year: “It would take me two weeks to get an agreement.”

[This article originally appeared on]

Nonetheless, in the over 34 weeks since Trump has taken office and after his third round of meetings last week at the United Nations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the peace process remains stagnant.  This week, with Israeli and Palestinian officials trading insults after Ramallah successfully joined Interpol on Wednesday and a Palestinian terrorist killing three Israeli security officials at a West Bank crossing this week, analysts note that the Trump administration-led process appears unable to sustain positive momentum.

Michael Koplow, Policy Director at the Israel Policy Forum, criticized Trump’s refusal to endorse the two state solution while meeting with Netanyahu and Abbas. “To continue to be coy about it and not utter the phrase two state solution and act is if there is some sort of magical answer that nobody else has ever discovered is ridiculous,” he told Jewish Insider.

“I don’t exactly know right now what the strategy is from the US,” said Grant Rumley, a researcher at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) and co-author of a recent biography on Abbas. Rumley added that without a framework going forward, the Palestinians are concerned that they would take unpopular domestic steps such as cutting the payments to families of terrorists and “follow the Trump team to something that ended up as a status quo quasi- agreement, leaving them in the cold.”

Into the 10th month of the Trump presidency, the administration has still declined to outline any concrete proposal towards relaunching talks. “There is a good chance that it (peace) can happen. The Israelis would like to see it. And I think the Palestinians would like to see it and I can tell you that Trump administration would like to see it,” the President declared on September 18.

For all the attention on the Trump administration, David Makovsky, a fellow at the Washington Institute expressed skepticism about the attitudes towards peace in Jerusalem and Ramallah. “I do not think both the Israelis and Palestinians have the requisite domestic political will to do anything that is politically hard for them. It is hard to imagine a breakthrough at this time.” Makovsky cited the inability for the PA to curb incitement along with the Israeli cabinet freeze of a proposal to expand housing units in the Palestinian city of Qalqilya as signs that Jerusalem and Ramallah remain unable to take the steps necessary towards peace.

In a September 19th speech to international donors, Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt highlighted how the current US approach “departs from some of the usual orthodoxy” while emphasizing collaborative wastewater projects and economic assistance. Noting the economic challenges in Ramallah, Greenblatt added, “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 PA collects the taxes it is owed.”

Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Egypt, explained that without a “top-down component” addressing core political issues including Jerusalem, borders and refugees, then the infrastructure projects “will become conflict management tactics rather than conflict resolution tactics.”

In contrast to the friction between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government, many supporters of Israel appreciate the warmer approach taken by the Trump White House towards the Jewish state. Trump made a point during his UN meeting not to publicly criticize Netanyahu’s government and Greenblatt has repeatedly thanked the Israelis for taking steps that improve the West Bank economy.

Yet, some worry that the bear hug towards Israel could impair the U.S. ability to serve as a fair broker. In a recent interview, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman departed with longstanding State Department policy by referring to the “Alleged Occupation.” Palestinians were also disappointed when U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley vowed to block any Palestinian from serving in senior UN role as a way to counter UN bias against Israel. “You also at some point cross a line from being tilted to the Israeli side and going full blown of being Israel’s advocate against the Palestinians,” Koplow said.

“We know from a very long and unfortunately sad experience that the absence of a serious process will over time result in pressures building up that contribute to the resumption of violence,” Kurtzer concluded.

Israel to send search-and-rescue team to Mexico in wake of severe earthquake

An Israeli rescue team working near the site of an earthquake south of Mexico City on Sept. 20. Photo courtesy of Zaka

Israel will send a search and rescue team to Mexico in the wake of a severe earthquake — the second to hit the North American nation in two weeks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the operation and said it would leave for Mexico as soon as possible, his office said Wednesday morning in a statement.

More than 200 people have been killed in the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that struck central Mexico on Tuesday afternoon, rocking the capital of Mexico City and causing hundreds of buildings to collapse.

In addition, a delegation of 50 Israeli soldiers is scheduled to leave for Mexico City on Wednesday afternoon to assist in relief efforts.

Volunteers from Israel’s Zaka search-and-rescue organization arrived in Mexico in the hours following the quake and are helping local rescue forces, the organization said in a statement. In addition, engineers have been sent to local synagogues to make sure that they can safely accommodate Rosh Hashanah services, according to Zaka.

On the same date in 1985, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake centered on Mexico City left 10,000 people dead and another 30,000 injured.

Tuesday’s quake comes two weeks after at least 96 people died in an 8.1 magnitude quake that struck off the southern Pacific coast of Mexico on Sept. 7. The Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas were hardest hit.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is also responding, supporting the search, rescue and emergency aid efforts of CADENA, its Mexican Jewish humanitarian partner. The response focuses on immediate rescue and relief including digging people out of the rubble, emergency psychology services and medical aid, according to JDC.

The JDC has also opened a mailbox for donations.

Netanyahu prefers scrapping Iran deal over fixing it

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations on Sept. 19. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Iran nuclear deal must be amended or canceled, but suggested that scrapping the deal may be preferable.

“Israel’s policy regarding the nuclear deal with Iran is very simple — change it or cancel it, fix it or nix it,” Netanyahu said Tuesday, addressing the launch of this year’s United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Netanyahu appeared to favor the cancel option, saying he “couldn’t agree more” with Donald Trump when the U.S. president said earlier from the same podium that the deal is an “embarrassment to the United States.”

The Israeli leader said canceling the deal would simply mean a return to massive sanctions as a means of pressure on Iran. The 2015 deal, negotiated by the Obama administration, traded sanctions relief for a rollback to Iran’s nuclear option.

Defenders of the deal say it would be near impossible to re-establish the international sanctions regime that brought Iran to the negotiating table.

Fixing the deal, Netanyahu said, would mean broadly expanding the number of sites available for impromptu visits by international nuclear inspectors, immediate penalties for any violations of the deal and ending the “sunset” clause — the restrictions on Iran that begin to lapse within the next decade.

Netanyahu said Iran’s rulers should be wary of their constant threats against Israel.

“Those who threaten us with annihilation put themselves in peril,” he said.

Netanyahu also said that Israel would not allow a permanent Iranian presence in Syria, where Iran is aligned with the Assad regime in suppressing a civil war that has raged for more than six years.

Israeli consulate in NY evacuated after death threat against Netanyahu

Police in New York City in August. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

The Israeli consulate in New York City was evacuated after receiving a threatening letter.

The consulate’s spokeswoman, Almog Elijis, confirmed that the building was evacuated Friday due to a threatening package and that the situation was under control, but did not provide further details. The Jerusalem Post reported, based on a source at the consulate, that the package contained an envelope with white powder and a letter threatening Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s life, written in English.

Netanyahu is set to visit New York this week, where he will speak at the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday and meet with President Donald Trump.

Israeli defense officials reportedly oppose changing Iran deal

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant on Aug. 21, 2010. Photo from Iran International Photo Agency via Getty Images

Israel’s intelligence community opposes the drastic changes sought by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, according to a report.

Several sources, who were not named, told the Haaretz daily that the defense establishment in Israel does not agree with the demand articulated by Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman that President Donald Trump scrap or revise the deal, the daily reported Friday.

On Thursday, Trump waived nuclear sanctions on Iran in compliance with the deal, but warned that he could take dramatic action on the deal as early as next month. Thursday was the deadline for Trump to waive sanctions targeting Iran’s nuclear sector, according to the pact negotiated by six world powers, led by the United States, and Iran.

The agreement offers Iran sanctions relief for rolling back some elements of its nuclear program until 2025.

Trump told reporters on Air Force One that the deal was “one of the worst” and he planned on addressing it soon.

“The spirit of the deal is just atrociously kept, but the Iran deal is not a fair deal to this country,” he said. “It’s a deal that should have never, ever been made. And you’ll see what we’re doing in a couple of weeks. It’s going to be in October.”

On Tuesday, Netanyahu denied claims made to Reuters by a U.S. official who said Israel wishes to avoid changes to the deal, which Netanyahu condemned as “paving Iran’s path nuclear weapons.” The issue was a major point of contention between Netanyahu and former President Barack Obama, who led efforts to seal the deal.

Israel maintains that the United States should either “revise or scrap the deal,” Netanyahu said.

But senior officials told Haaretz that Israel’s intelligence community has identified no Iranian violations of the deal. Several officials said they feared an Iranian nuclear breakout — meaning a concentrated effort to obtain offensive capabilities – if the deal is scrapped.

“As in the United States, there is a disagreement on this issue in Israel,” one senior defense official told Haaretz. “Netanyahu and Liberman may share the same position on the deal, but the defense establishment does not share this view, necessarily.”

Netanyahu’s son removes anti-Semitic Facebook post with no apology or comment

Yair Netanyahu, son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Oct. 13, 2016. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem

Yair Netanyahu, son of Israel’s prime minister, removed an anti-Semitic meme he posted on his Facebook page in response to criticism of his parents.

He removed the post without any public comment or apology. Other posts in response to the meme remain on his Facebook page, including at least one that retains part of the image.

The image, which in the post Netanyahu called the “food chain,” showed a photo of billionaire Jewish philanthropist George Soros holding the world on a fishing line in front of a lizard, which hangs the alchemy symbol in front of a Shylock-type image, who then holds a U.S. dollar in front of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, followed by photos of Israeli critics of his parents.

The meme had been altered but reportedly was anti-Semitic in origin and came from a right-wing Facebook page.

Yair Netanyahu’s post came after the announcement Friday by Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, that his mother, Sara Netanyahu, will be indicted on four counts of fraud for allegedly diverting some $100,000 in public funds for her family’s personal use. It is not the first time that his posts on his Facebook page have made him the subject of widespread criticism.

Last month, in the wake of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, he wrote on social media that American left-wing groups — the anti-fascist Antifa movement and the Black Lives Matter movement against systemic racism — are more dangerous than neo-Nazis.

The Israel office of the Anti-Defamation League on Sunday said the meme posted Friday evening “contains blatantly anti-Semitic elements,” and said dangers in anti-Semitic images such as that one should not be underestimated.

The Daily Stormer in an article headlined “Netanyahu’s Son Posts Awesome Meme Blaming the Jews for Bringing Down his Jew Father” called Yair Netanyahu a “total bro.”

“Welcome to the club, Yair – absolutely amazing, wow, just wow,” tweeted former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.

Sara Netanyahu to be indicted for fraud

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara on June 14. Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

The wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be indicted on four counts of fraud for allegedly diverting some $100,000 in public funds for her family’s personal use, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said.

Mandelblit gave Sara Netanyahu the news on Friday, according to Army Radio.

“The attorney general examined the case evidence and reached the decision [to indict Sara Netanyahu] after consulting relevant sources, including the state prosecution and the Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office,” read a statement from the attorney general’s office Friday.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s office dismissed the indictment as “absurd and unfounded.”

“Sara Netanyahu is a brave and honest woman,” read a statement posted on his Facebook page, adding that any financial discrepancy at the prime minister’s residence came from former housekeeper Menny Naftali, who was described as “problematic.”

The indictment also names Ezra Saidoff, a former deputy director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, according to The Times of Israel. The Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office notified Saidoff on Friday as well.

The indictments are pending hearings for both Netanyahu and Saidoff.

The Netanyahus ended their statement Thursday by alleging that they were the target of an “obsessive” smear campaign.

The most serious of the four charges being brought against Sara Netanyahu involves the hiring of electrician Avi Fahima, a Likud Central Committee member. A committee charged with overseeing residence expenditures — and which included the legal adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office — had ruled against the hiring of Fahima.

Further suspicions relate to the use of state funds for purchasing furniture that purportedly was bought for the official residence in Jerusalem and then moved to the Netanyahus’ private residence in Caesarea. Older furniture was taken back from Caesarea to the residence in Jerusalem.

The decision to launch the investigation came in light of the state prosecutor’s recommendation after allegations were raised in a 2015 report by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira that detailed lavish spending at the official residence in Jerusalem, as well as at the Caesarea home.

Daily Kickoff: Netanyahu told Dems last month he supports two states | Profile: Ben Brafman, last of the big-time defense attorneys | Dershowitz BDay

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Ed note: Welcome to September! Wishing you a wonderful Labor Day Weekend. We’ll be back on Tuesday

PROFILE: “Ben Brafman, the Last of the Big-Time Defense Attorneys” by Jeffrey Toobin: “Like the best trial lawyers, Brafman is a storyteller, who tries to turn his cases into narratives that jurors will read his way… “The narrative has to fit, has to be consistent with the truth, so that the jury knows you’re not making up stuff,” Brafman said… Traditionally, trial lawyering has been a game for young men… Brafman isn’t sure how long he wants to keep doing it. So he’s decided to make a seasonal concession to the passing years. “All my contemporaries, if they are working at all, are taking August off,” he said. “My wife said to me, ‘How many summers do you think you have left, Brafman?’ So I sort of promised myself I will never try this kind of case in the summer again. But I’ve got no problem for the rest of the year. What else am I going to do?”” [NewYorker]

SPOTTED at Camden Yards last night: LionTree CEO Aryeh Bourkoff sitting behind home plate with Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank during the Orioles Blue Jays game [Pic; Instagram] • Check out Aryeh’s latest podcast with Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino on the future of live entertainment [KindredCast]

WHAT BIBI TOLD DEMS — Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) tells JI’s Aaron Magid that Netanyahu told a group Congressional Democrats visiting Jerusalem that he backs two states. Pallone, who was part of the delegation visiting Israel and a participant at the meeting, said that Netanyahu “clearly said that the goal is a two state solution.” Netanyahu’s private backing of two states contrasts with his more hawkish line expressed in public. “We are here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel,” Netanyahu said on Monday during a speech celebrating 50 years of Israeli presence in the West Bank.

Reflecting on his trip, Pallone said that Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bishara showed inflexibility during a meeting with the delegation in Ramallah. Bishara “was very unreasonable. Essentially, he said, ‘You have to give everything back. We want Jerusalem back. We want the Old City back,’” Pallone said. The New Jersey lawmaker, who serves as Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called Trump’s approach “naive.” “It’s a very difficult problem. We are nowhere near (a peace agreement) because we don’t have someone on the Palestinian side who could strike a deal. Trump exaggerates his role and doesn’t know what he’s talking about half of the time.”[JewishInsider

“U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman is back home, admiring Israeli optimism” by Rob Golub: “The congressmen on the trip met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Grothman described him as a “down-to-earth guy.” They also met with a close associate of Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who Grothman felt was “unimpressive.” Without the press present, congressmen were asking him about educating young Palestinians to kill Jews, Grothman said. “He really wouldn’t face that issue at all.””[WIJewishChronicle]

AT 1:00PM TODAY — Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, retired chaplain in US Navy, will continue to set records when he gives the House prayer this afternoon. This will be his 11th appearance as a guest chaplain in Congress (8 times in the Senate, 3 times in the House.), and 3rd most pro forma prayers in the House. Resnicoff’s first prayer was Jan. 22, 2003, in the Senate. [CSPAN]h/t Howard Mortman

INSIDE THE ADMIN: “During a summer of crisis, Trump chafes against criticism and new controls” by Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker: “People close to the president said he is simmering with displeasure over what he considers personal disloyalty from National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn… Trump was especially upset that Cohn went public with his complaints about the president’s handling of Charlottesville, even after Trump listened to Cohn vent during a private meeting on Aug. 18 in Bedminster, N.J. The president has been quietly fuming about Cohn for the past week but has resisted dismissing him in part because he has been the face, along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, of the administration’s tax-cut strategy.” [WashPost]

THE DAILY KUSHNER: “Days after sister’s visa pitch, Kushner divested asset related to Jersey City project” by Amy Brittain: “Kushner’s lawyer, Blake Roberts of WilmerHale, said… that Kushner had sold his ownership stake in the [One Journal Square] project on March 7 to his mother’s trust and that the contingent right… no longer held any value because it was connected to a prior version of the project that had fallen through. Kushner divested the right… just three days after the speech by his sister Nicole Kushner Meyer to investors in Beijing willing to put up $500,000 in exchange for EB-5 visas… Josh Raffel, Kushner’s White House spokesman, said that the divestiture of the contingent right was not triggered by Meyer’s comments but was part of a process that was already underway to provide more information to ethics officials.” [WashPost] • Inside Kushner’s sister’s pitch to Chinese investors [Video]

Kushner fundraises for Mark Meadows: “Jared Kushner quietly escaped to North Carolina last night to raise money at a private fundraiser for Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus… Meadows and Kushner have discussed Israel — part of Kushner’s portfolio, and a key issue for Meadows — and he has talked with Ivanka about paid leave, which faces long odds in the Republican Congress. Kushner went in a private capacity.” [Politico]

“How the Trump-Tillerson Clash Could Ignite a West Wing Shake-Up” by Abigail Tracy: “Tillerson was playing the long game . . . he was ceding a lot of ground to Kushner and [Nikki] Haley and thought it would pay off in the long run,” one current State Department staffer… told me. “I think that he has seen that it has actually not paid off and it has made his job harder and I think Charlottesville was a turning point—but not for the reason that people think.” … Haley and [Dina] Powell, meanwhile, are standouts in an administration with precious few success stories.”

“Several diplomats I spoke to thought Powell would be well-received as ambassador to the U.N. “Dina Powell is a very strong leader. She really needs to be more visible at this time when there is such instability in the U.S. position,” Bruen said. The current State staffer told me she has “a lot of respect across the board,” is “well-liked and her policy chops are really strong.” Still, Powell has other, dark forces working against her. At the U.N., she would not only be confronting North Korea and Iran, but also in all likelihood Steve Bannon… Powell could face a concerted right-wing media campaign against her ascension.” [VanityFair

IRAN DEAL — Contradicting Trump, U.N. Monitor Says Iran Complies With Nuclear Deal” by David Sanger and Rick Gladstone: “Mr. Trump has several options to choose from. One is to simply scrap the existing accord… Another option would be to declare that Iran was in noncompliance but to keep enforcing the accord in any case… A third option, administration officials say, is to set up what amounts to a test that Washington expects Iran to fail. That would involve providing intelligence information to the I.A.E.A that nuclear-related work — from enrichment to possible weapons research — is the basis for an inspection demand. So far, officials say, no such specific information has been turned over…” [NYTimes]

— “A US official… said that Haley, on her Aug. 23 visit to the IAEA in Vienna, “did not ask the IAEA to inspect any specific sites, nor did she provide the IAEA with any new intelligence… She conveyed that the IAEA will need to continue to robustly exercise its authorities to verify Iran’s declaration and monitor the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, including access to undeclared and military-affiliated sites where the agency has questions about nuclear-related activities.” [Al-Monitor] • U.S. says Iran shows ‘true colors’ by restoring Hamas ties [Reuters]

Iran Nuclear Deal Falls Short on Missiles” by Bennett Seftel: “Although the Iranian leadership has refuted accusations that Tehran is aiming to develop nuclear weapons, these ballistic missile tests seem to indicate otherwise… In the end, Iran’s longer term objectives may be to follow in the footsteps of North Korea by establishing ballistic missiles capabilities and producing nuclear weapons that would simultaneously help ensure regime survival and threaten adversaries in the region and beyond.” [TheChiperBrief]

KAFE KNESSET — The Bibi Sheldon Hotline — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: So just how close are Bibi and Sheldon and what is the extent of the PM’s involvement in Adelson’s freebie, Israel Hayom? That was the trending question last night, as Netanyahu revealed on Facebook that between 2012-2015 he spoke to Adelson about 40 times a year and with Israel Hayom’s former editor Amos Regev about 80 times a year. He didn’t disclose these contacts voluntarily, of course, but rather was complying with an Israeli Supreme Court ruling from last month. This ruling compelled the PM to reveal the dates and times of his conversations with Adelson and Regev. Bibi did not publish the dates and times of the talks, as requested in the original petition submitted by Channel 10 journalist Raviv Drucker, but he did post a lengthy Facebook post in which he explained that “Adelson has been a close friend of mine for about 30 years and I am happy to talk to him from time to time… All Israeli politicians do this, especially during election campaigns.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Petition to Declare George Soros a Terrorist is One of Most Popular on White House site” by Rachel Stockman: “According to the website, a petition to declare George Soros a terrorist and seize all of his related organizations’ assets under RICO and NDAA law” is one of the most popular White House petitions. It is ranked number 12, pulling in about 60,000 signatures since it was created just 10 days ago.” [LawNewz; WashExaminer]

** Good Friday 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 **

SPOTLIGHT: “Burning Man signifies society’s shift away from traditional capitalism” by Simone Stolzoff: “For the 40% of Burning Man attendees who will be first-timers this year, Black Rock City may inspire an idea of what a post-capitalist society could look like. “The term ‘gift economy’ is a little misleading,” says Andie Grace, Burning Man’s longtime director of communications. “The term ‘economy’ often implies some aspect of exchange. But there’s no accounting, no expectation of receiving anything in return. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a commerce-free experience—burners buy plenty of goods to bring into Black Rock City. It’s just a commerce-free zone.”

“As more and more people hope to participate every year, it has ironically become the exact free-market force that has made capitalism so much harder to escape. As a result, the Burn is a well-positioned antidote for many of our first-world ailments—at least for those that can afford it.” [Quartz]

STARTUP NATION: “‘It’s underhyped’: An investor explains his crazy promise to invest in every Israeli blockchain startup” by Shona Ghosh: “Moshe Hogeg, the entrepreneur behind messaging app Yo!, photo-sharing firm Mobli, and phone startup Sirin, has promised to invest in every Israeli blockchain startup that approaches him for investment… Hogeg will invest personally, rather than through his VC firm Singulariteam… “Israel is a startup nation, but I don’t take it for granted this is the situation,” he said… I want to get dealflow, and I want 100% of the deals. The best way to do that is to invest in every single one of them.”” [BusinessInsider]

“Haredi dot com” by Chanani Bleich: “Welcome to KamaTech — a unique program geared toward integrating ultra-Orthodox workers into the Israeli high-tech industry. The man behind the initiative is entrepreneur Moshe Friedman, a 38-year-old haredi man, father of four living in Bnei Brak. The bulk of his work involves offering courses, making connections, bridging gaps, mediating and networking… “I was on my way to launch my first startup company and I met with a well-known investor. He informed me right off the bat: ‘I don’t invest in haredim.’ I asked him why, and he said, ‘Look, you know that most startup ventures fail, and when I look at investing in an entrepreneur I want to feel like even though there are hundreds just like him who will fail, he will be the one to succeed.'” … These days, Friedman doesn’t have to chase investors anymore. He recently launched his newest baby — 12Angels, the first haredi venture capital fund.” [IsraelHayom]

Pope: Seeking clarity, I saw psychoanalyst weekly years ago: “Pope Francis says that when he was 42 he had sessions weekly with a psychoanalyst who was female and Jewish to “clarify some things.” It wasn’t specified what the future pontiff wanted to explore. The revelation came in a dozen conversations Francis had with French sociologist Dominique Wolton… Francis was quoted as saying: “one day, when she was about to die, she called me. Not to receive the sacraments, since she was Jewish, but for a spiritual dialogue.” “She was a good person. For six months she helped me a lot,” Francis said.” [AP]

HARVEY: “‘No Amount of Planning Could Have Spared Us’: How Texans Experienced Harvey” by Michael Gold, Fahima Haque and Nilo Tabrizy: “Beth Yeshurun Cemetery, the oldest Jewish graveyard in Texas, as seen from Julio Osorio’s balcony in downtown Houston on Sunday. By Tuesday, right, the water had receded considerably… “These pictures show that not even the most symbolic or sacred place, like this one, escaped the power of Harvey. No one was safe under Harvey.”” [NYTimesPic]

MEDIA WATCH: For Clyde and Maggie Haberman, journalism is a family affair” by Brian Stelter and Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman: “On August 21, Haberman shared the Times’ esteemed front page with one of his daughters, the President Trump chronicler Maggie Haberman. It was “a hell of a source of pride,” he said, so much so that “I asked Al Siegal, our former standards editor, who goes way back. He couldn’t think of another parent-child combo.” … Covering New York City and its many characters, including Donald Trump, for the Post and the Daily News prepared Maggie for a job covering the Trump presidency. She sees a stylistic similarity between Ed Koch, who she described as “a showy mayor, very interested in making a splash,” and President Trump. “I do think that Ed Koch helped inform his thinking about how a politician behaves,” she said.” [CNNMoney] • Listen to the Reliable Sources podcast here [CNNPodcast

UPCOMING BOOKS: “Nathan Englander Channels His Inner John le Carré” by Rachel Donadio: “In pared-down prose, channeling John le Carré, the novel is about the failure of the peace process in the Middle East. It is set between 2002, during the Second Intifada, and 2014, when Ariel Sharon died, after having been in a coma for years. Mr. Englander conjures up a world of Israeli intelligence and waiters in Parisian cafes who are not what they seem, and the book’s characters include Prisoner Z, an American spy for Israel who winds up in an Israeli prison, accused of treason; the General, who is modeled on Sharon, and his nurse, who is the mother of Prisoner Z’s guard. Mr. Englander, who was educated in Jewish schools on Long Island, lived in Israel from 1996 to 2001, and much of the novel is set there.” [NYTimes]

“David Litt, an Obama Speechwriter Who Wants No Credit” by Sopan Deb: “Washington is filled with political operatives who inflate their importance and take credit, oftentimes where it might not be due. David Litt, who landed a dream job as a speechwriter for the Obama administration at just 24 years old, is not that kind of operative. His new book, “Thanks Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years,” is an amusing, honest and self-deprecating look at being a less-heralded staffer in the White House. While others might exaggerate their access to the president, Mr. Litt, now a head writer at Funny or Die, writes about how President Obama didn’t even know his name until his second term.” [NYTimes]

MAZEL TOV: “Property mogul Jeff Sutton’s daughter ties the knot in breathtaking Italian wedding” by Paul Thompson: “The daughter of New York’s ‘King of Retail’ married in a sunset ceremony overlooking the Adriatic Sea today watched by of over 400 friends and family. Renee Sutton and her fiancée Eliot Cohen wed in a traditional Jewish ceremony following a four-day build up to the big event… Locals had been drawn by rumors in the Italian press that Madonna or Lady Gaga were to perform for the couple at their wedding party. The rumors turned out to be false as did speculation that Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton would be attending the nuptials.” [DailyMail]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Harvard Law School professor (1967-2016), a scholar on constitutional and criminal law, now a regular CNN contributor and political analyst, Alan Dershowitz turns 79… Conductor, author and composer, Leonard Slatkin turns 73… Israeli rock singer, lyricist and composer, he is often referred to as “The King of Israeli Rock,” Shalom Hanoch turns 71… Member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2005 and Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives since 2009 (the first Jewish Speaker in Texas), Joe Straus turns 58… EVP for worldwide corporate communications at Warner Bros., following a long DC career that included being the White House press secretary during the first two years of the Clinton administration, Dee Dee Myers turns 56… President of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, located in Riverdale in NYC, Asher Lopatin turns 53… Director of national outreach for the Jewish Institute for National Security of America since 2013, following 11 years as the national grassroots director for the Republican Jewish Coalition, Harris Vederman turns 47… Novelist and playwright whose parents, Faye Kellerman and Jonathan Kellerman are both best selling authors, Jesse Kellerman turns 39… Video producer at MSNBC, Amitai Perline turns 32… Communications and policy specialist and analyst in the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, previously president of the Binghamton University Zionist Organization, Yael Rabin turns 25… Linda Feldman… Malca Resnick… Nancy Finkel

SATURDAY: Los Angeles-based attorney who was part of the “Dream Team” that successfully defended OJ Simpson in 1995, he is a co-founder of two businesses, LegalZoom and RightCounsel, Robert Shapiro turns 75… Rabbi of Baltimore’s Shearith Israel Congregation, Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer turns 73… Lincolnwood, Illinois resident, Tobi Kelmer turns 71… Richard Mandelbaum turns 71… Born in a DP camp following the Holocaust, a member of the Knesset since 1999 for the United Torah Judaism party, he currently serves as Israel’s Minister of Health, Yaakov Litzman turns 69… Television producer, attorney, legal analyst and celebrity reporter, he is the founder of celebrity news website TMZ, Harvey Levin turns 67… CEO since 2000 of Lions Gate Entertainment, the leading Canadian independent film studio, Jon Feltheimer turns 66… President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, Lee Wunsch turns 65… Deputy Editor for News at Yahoo, author of a book on President Obama’s war on terror, formerly Managing Editor of Newsweek, Daniel Klaidman turns 53… Washington correspondent for the Fox News Channel, James Rosen turns 49… Founder of Israeli media organization TheMarker and a deputy publisher of the Haaretz daily newspaper, he is also a clinical professor at the University of Chicago, Guy Rolnik turns 49… Billionaire serial entrepreneur, co-founder and chairman of Groupon and co-founder of two other public companies and a venture capital firm, Eric Lefkofsky turns 48… Executive Producer at PBS’s Frontline, Raney Aronson-Rath turns 47… Seth Zweifler turns 26…

SUNDAY: Pioneer of the modern cable television industry, chairman and CEO of Warner Cable Communications (1973-1983), Gustave M. Hauser turns 88… Actor, producer, author and voice artist, best known for portraying Bobby Baccalieri on The Sopranos, more recently he has appeared as a regular in CBS’s “Blue Bloods,” Steve Schirripa turns 60… Historian and progressive journalist who has writte three books on the rise of the American conservative movement (focused on Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan), Eric S. “Rick” Perlstein turns 48… Chief development officer at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (D.C.), soon to be the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, Avital Ingber turns 36… Venezuelan-born son of two United Nations officials, he is a digital media and political strategist who is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Left Hook Communications, Joel Kliksberg turns 33… Managing Partner of Tax Equity Advisors and former director of the DOE’s $50 billion loan programs office, Jonathan Silver… Betty Lederman

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White House declines to criticize Netanyahu for comments on settlements

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Aug. 9. Photo by Amir Cohen/Reuters

A senior Trump administration official refrained from criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for promising on Monday that he would not uproot West Bank settlements. “It is no secret what each side’s position is on this issue,” a senior White House official told Jewish Insider. “Our focus is on continuing our conversations with both parties and regional leaders to work towards facilitating a deal that factors in all substantive issues.”

[This article originally appeared on]

Addressing an event celebrating 50 years of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Netanyahu said, “We are here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel. This is the inheritance of our ancestors. This is our land.”

Netanyahu’s remarks come shortly after a senior White House delegation visited Israel and the West Bank in the Trump administration’s quest to secure the “ultimate deal” or a final status peace agreement. President Donald Trump had previously refused to endorse a two state solution, breaking with previous Democrat and Republican presidents.

In a readout of Jared Kushner’s meeting with Netanyahu last week, the White House said, “The United States delegation encouraged Israel to create an environment conducive to peacemaking, including by working with the Palestinians on projects of mutual interest and benefit.”

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat slammed the Trump administration and suggested that the U.S. was biased against Ramallah during the ongoing peace talks in a July 31 interview with Jewish Insider.

“Israel announces thousands of new settlement units that make it almost impossible to achieve the two-state solution, and it’s merely met with silence from U.S. officials,” Erekat said.

Netanyahu: Moving Embassy to Jerusalem could ‘easily be done’

An Orthodox Jewish man stands in front of the U.S Embassy in Tel Aviv. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

In a meeting this month with Republican members of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to express support for moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to one of the participants Representative Lloyd Smucker (R-PA). The Pennsylvania lawmaker told Jewish Insider that Netanyahu “believes is that it could easily be done. In his (Netanyahu) words: We already have a consulate in Jerusalem. It’s a matter of just changing the sign to make it the Embassy.”

While President Donald Trump repeatedly urged the transfer of the Embassy to Jerusalem during his 2016 election campaign, the real estate mogul turned commander in chief signed a national security waiver on June 1 keeping the U.S. diplomatic compound in Tel Aviv.

“President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests,” the White House noted in a statement at the time.

[This story originally appeared on]

The Israeli leader raised the issue of the Embassy in response to a question by Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE). According to Rep. Smucker’s recollection of the meeting, Netanyahu “believes that there wouldn’t be a lot of pushback in the event that we do that.”

Palestinian officials have vehemently opposed the Embassy’s relocation. Jibril Rajoub, one of the most influential Fatah members,  told the Times of Israel in January, “Moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a declaration of war against Muslims.” Jordan, which maintains ties to East Jerusalem guaranteed in the 1994 peace treaty, has also said that moving the Embassy would cross a “red line.”

After the national security waiver was signed this summer, the momentum to relocate the embassy appears to have declined in Washington following months of anticipation by many of the President’s supporters. However, Netanyahu’s backing of the embassy transfer to Jerusalem in the August meeting with Congress demonstrates it is not a settled issue yet.

Daily Kickoff: Bibi tells Congress they should remove sunset clause from Iran deal | Rabbis ditch traditional White House call | Saudi-Ashkenazy ties

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Aug. 13. Photo by Dan Balilty/Reuters

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DRIVING THE CONVO: Rabbi Lookstein says he’d join a Trump High Holidays call — by Jacob Kornbluh: Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan who oversaw Ivanka Trump’s conversion to Judaism, told Jewish Insider that he would join a pre-High Holidays conference call between President Trump and Synagogue Rabbis despite his recent criticism of Trump’s response to Charlottesville. Rabbinical groups representing the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements announced yesterday that they will not continue the tradition of participating in a High Holidays conference call with Trump, accusing the President of giving “succor to those who advocate anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia.”

Asked if he’d join a call for rabbis with the President, Lookstein said: “Yes! Absolutely! He is the president of my country.”

Jeff Berkowitz, Founder and CEO of Delve LLC and previously a White House Jewish liaison questioned the motive of the rabbis’ statement. “The statement, and having a paid political consultant (West End Strategy) promoting it, is a strange and unfortunate politicization of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar that does nothing to further the Jewish community’s interests,” Berkowitz said. [JewishInsider

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center, told the NYTimes that events in Charlottesville had sent a deep shudder through the rabbinical community. He said Jews were appalled by the experience of rabbis in Charlottesville, who feared that they would become the targets of neo-Nazi violence, and by Mr. Trump’s equivocal response. “Charlottesville created a new reality,” Rabbi Pesner said. “It’s not that big a rabbinical community. We’re all showing up for each other and there’s a lot of anger out there.” [NYTimes]

“Trump’s inaugural rabbi: The president could learn a thing about white nationalists and neo-Nazis from the eclipse” by Allan Smith: “Rabbi Marvin Hier… said the eclipse… provides the perfect metaphor for the white nationalists and neo-Nazis… “The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, yet the moon had the capacity to do a complete eclipse on the sun,” he said… Something “small by comparison can blot out and blacken the sun … it can be completely darkened by the moon,” he continued. “That’s what these fanatics can do to the planet Earth if we don’t wake up.” Hier noted that the US “caught on late” to the Nazi movement in Europe in the 1930s. “Let’s not catch on late now,” he said.” [BusinessInsider

Haim Saban on Trump: “I disagree with the president with what appears to be a moral equivalence being drawn between the Nazis, who are shouting, ‘Kill the Jews,’ and the protesters who came to counter that statement. [Still] I do not believe that President Trump is a Nazi or anti-Semite.” Black Lives Matter, meanwhile, “is clearly an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel group.” [THR

“Charlottesville’s Racists Are Rattling Israeli Politics” by Zev Chafets: “If Trump gets the impression that Netanyahu is cooperating with Republican rivals, a tweet or two could seriously weaken his “I am the indispensable prime minister” defense, not to mention his political future.”[BloombergView]

“Benjamin Netanyahu: neo-Nazi slogans in the streets of America are ‘no small thing'” by Herb Keinon: “Prefacing his remarks by saying that he did not want to get into the internal US debate about the rally and President Donald Trump’s response to it, Netanyahu said, “I can say unequivocally: It’s no small thing that people march with Nazi, neo-Nazi slogans.” … Netanyahu blamed the media for not adequately covering his condemnation of the marchers. “I said, and of course our media did not exactly cover it, that these people should crawl back under the rock they came from. I usually choose my words carefully, but that was a very harsh statement. This, of course, was not covered and led to all sorts of irrelevant interpretations.”

“The statement about the need for the neo-Nazis to “crawl back under the rock” … was not said by him publicly, but rather in a conversation with Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer. Dermer quoted the prime minister in a Facebook post put up on his Facebook page on August 14… Dermer said he spoke to Netanyahu about the events and that the premier “asked him to convey Israel’s outrage over the attack and over the expressions of antisemitism and racism.” [JPost]

THE DAILY KUSHNER: “Kushner Cos. Switches to Crisis Manager for Media Relations” by Caleb Melby and David Kocieniewski: “Eric Wachter, a vice president at public relations firm Finsbury, said he will now be handling press inquiries. He replaces Risa Heller Communications, hired before Kushner became a senior adviser in the White House to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump. Wachter specializes in communications relating to crisis and issues management, litigation, government investigations, and public policy and regulatory matters. The change occurred this week.” [Bloomberg; Politico] • Wachter previously served as the associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington regional office.

“Russian ex-diplomat Kislyak downplays Trump campaign contacts” by Matthew Chance, Emma Burrows and Zachary Cohen: “Asked Wednesday if he and members of the Trump campaign — specifically Jared Kushner — discussed setting up secret channels to the Kremlin, Kislyak responded: “I’ve said many times that we do not discuss the substance of our discussions with our American interlocuters. Out of respect to our partners.” Kislyak also pushed back on claims that Trump disclosed secretive information about Syria during the now infamous Oval Office meeting… “I’m not sure that I heard anything that would be secretive, but it was a good meeting and we were discussing things that are important to your country and to mine,” he said.” [CNN

DRIVING THE DAY — Jared Kushner arrived in Israel today. “I’m very pleased to see you again, Jared, with your delegation. We have a lot of things to talk about: how to advance peace, stability and security in our region – prosperity too,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said before his meeting with the U.S. negotiating team in Jerusalem. “So I am happy to see you and the effort you’re leading on behalf of the President with Jason [Greenblatt] and other members of your team. I think this is a sign of the great alliance between us and the great goals that guide us.” [Pic]

Kushner to Bibi: “We are very appreciative of your team and the efforts they have made. The President is very committed to achieving a solution here that will be able to bring prosperity and peace to all people in this area, and we really appreciate the commitment of the PM and his team to engaging very thoughtful and respectfully in the way the President has asked them to do so. The relationship between Israel and America is stronger than ever and we thank PM Netanyahu for his leadership and his partnership.” [Video]

“With Trump at War Over Charlottesville, Jared Kushner Tries to Bring Middle East Peace” by Emily Jane Fox: “Kushner is now in a position in which he has to travel abroad and preach moral authority even as his boss continues to erode the administration’s high ground at home. But as one Jewish leader explained to me this week, at least none of this comes as a surprise to those he is meeting with in the Middle East. “Last week wasn’t some revelation about who the president is. It was just a little more naked,” this person said. “And they’re so frustrated with the administration for their own reasons that it won’t even come up.” “These guys are real politicians,” the Washington veteran noted to me. “And they know that Jared is the last person to hold Trump accountable for his sins on this issue. He’s without that kind of a moral center.”” [VanityFair

“Jared Kushner won’t find his job in Israel easy” by Aaron David Miller: “The Kushner trip might actually be considered something of a success if the United States managed to identify an approach that Abbas and Netanyahu didn’t blow out of the water immediately… Still, another trip or two without producing a visible sign of progress…  will erode what remains of Kushner’s credibility on this issue. And the parties will grow accustomed to his visits and weary of his talking points… And the President’s political travails at home.. have raised serious questions about Trump’s capacity and focus to deliver on the peace process.” [CNN]  

“Kushner already had his work cut out in the Middle East. But it just got harder” by Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash: “Dan Shapiro… said he had been “hopeful” earlier this year on Trump’s chances to make some progress because both sides were eager to maintain good relations with Washington… “As the political circumstances of the leaders in the region have changed and deteriorated from the point of view of their flexibility, and as president Trump’s own standing has taken a beating because of his domestic controversies, I believe his leverage has declined significantly.”” [WashPost]

“Can Trump’s Ex-Lawyer Jason Greenblatt Achieve Middle East Peace?” by Petra Cahill: “While he lacks any diplomatic experience, when he arrives in the region, people know he’s close to Donald Trump,” said [Professor Yossi] Mekelberg. “Someone who has a direct line with the president — you have to take him seriously.” And Mekelberg sees the lack of expectations around the Trump administration’s foray into the morass of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a good thing. “The level of expectation of the international community is so low, that in a strange way, it’s actually good. Because you can’t let them down anymore.” [NBCNews]

HEARD YESTERDAY — State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert: “We are not going to state what the outcome has to be. It has to be workable to both sides. And I think, really, that’s the best view as to not really bias one side over the other, to make sure that they can work through it. It’s been many, many decades… that the parties have not been able to come to any kind of good agreement and sustainable solution to this.”

JI INTERVIEW — Netanyahu tells Congress: Remove sunset clause from Iran deal — by Aaron Magid: During a meeting with Republican Congressmen this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the lawmakers to “get rid of the sunset clause” from the nuclear agreement, Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) said. “That was something new. I have always heard get rid of the treaty. Here is a comeback saying maybe we can change the sunset clause and pursue something in the middle,” Bacon explained.

The members of Congress also met with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. According to Bacon, Hamdallah “agreed that Palestine should not be a militarized or in other words be demilitarized. I think that was a pretty significant concession that the Palestine side needs to be demilitarized.” [JewishInsider]

“Haley Conveys Concern Over Iran Nuclear Deal to IAEA” by Jonathan Tirone: “UN Ambassador Nikki Haley met International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano on Wednesday over the July 2015 agreement… Haley “discussed U.S. concerns about ensuring Iran strictly adheres to its obligations, noting that IAEA reports can only be as good as the access Iran grants to any facility the IAEA suspects of having a nuclear role,” according to a State Department email.” [Bloomberg]

“Qatar to Send Ambassador Back to Iran” by Nicolas Parasie: “Qatar announced Thursday it is sending its ambassador back to Iran, defying a key demand from a Saudi-led bloc of Arab nations that it reduce its ties with Tehran… Qatar recalled its ambassador to Iran in early 2016, after Saudi Arabia’s execution of a Saudi Shiite cleric triggered attacks on two Saudi diplomatic compounds in Iran. In announcing that Qatar was returning its envoy to Iran, the country’s Foreign Ministry said the move represented its desire to “strengthen bilateral relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all fields.”” [WSJ

“UN force in Lebanon pushes back after US, Israeli criticism” by Sarah El Deeb: “France’s deputy U.N. ambassador Anne Guegen, whose country is in charge of drafting the council resolution renewing the mandate, told reporters that “it is of paramount importance for the stability of Lebanon and the region, and in the best interest of all, that UNIFIL keeps its mandate and is in a position to fulfill it, with the full backing and confidence of the Security Council.” … Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon told the AP that U.N. forces should have an increased presence in their area of operations, with more patrols and without any restrictions on its movements. He also said the mission should be gathering “real-time updates” about violations.” [AP]

** Good Thursday 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: Janet Yellen’s Future at the Fed Unresolved Heading Into Jackson Hole [WSJ] • Israel’s El Al Counts on New Boeing 787s to Lure Back Customers [Reuters] • Barry Diller’s Match Group tried to acquire Bumble for $450 million [TechCrunch] • Chelsea Clinton told guests at billionaire scion Alex Soros’ Hamptons home that her mom is “fine” after her election loss [DailyNews] • Roman Abramovich spotted on his £312 million yacht near his Antibes home [DailyMail]

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT: “A Little Startup Taking Customers From IBM Watson Just Raised Millions To Go For More” by Alex Konrad:“Nate Storch loves to meet with companies working with IBM Watson for text analytics. That means there’s a good chance they’ll soon be customers of his little startup, Amenity Analytics. Amenity Analytics plays in the natural language processing space, meaning it helps customers feed in huge amounts of documents and extracts meaningful, readable insights from phrases and patterns flagged in those texts. Now the startup has raised $7.6 million in a Series A funding round from an Israeli VC firm, State Of Mind Ventures, to take more.” [Forbes]

SAUDI-ASHKENAZY TIES: “The Plaza Is for Sale, but a Part-Owner Has Other Ideas” by Charles Bagli: “Subrata Roy, the embattled chairman of the India-based Sahara Group and the principal owner of the Plaza, who has repeatedly put the hotel up for sale without ever making a deal, is looking for a buyer once again. But Prince al-Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia and Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, a New York investment and development company, which together own a 25 percent stake in the hotel, have their own plans for the Plaza. And they don’t include Mr. Roy. The prince, who has been an owner of the hotel since 1995, formed a partnership with Ashkenazy earlier this year to buy out Mr. Roy and restore the Plaza to its five-star grandeur.” [NYTimes]

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: The biggest political event yesterday in Israel was a wedding. The daughter of coalition chairman and Bibi loyalist, David Bitan, got married. The Prime Minister and Sarah themselves made an appearance. Netanyahu took the microphone to wish the new couple well, and praised “my friend David.” Bitan has organized pro-Netanyahu rallies and went to the media to fight for Bibi and defend him from corruption allegations when no one else in the Likud would. In his remarks, Netanyahu thanked Bitan repeatedly for his “courage.” “I had a feeling that he would be an excellent coalition chairman, but he surprised me. He is even more outstanding than I thought!” the premier said. The way to Bibi’s heart is through defending him in the fake news media, apparently. Other attendees, by the way, included cabinet ministers, opposition chairman Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) and MKs from the opposition and coalition. Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef performed the wedding. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Rabbi claims he was vilified for welcoming non-white members” by Lia Eustachewich: “Rabbi Rigoberto Emmanuel Viñas, a Sephardic Jew who trained as an Orthodox rabbi, claims the board at Lincoln Park Jewish Center in Yonkers has a “long history” of discriminatory practices against “non-Whites.” … Viñas, who joined the synagogue in 2003, claims one board member, Helen Schwartz, commented, “Wouldn’t it be terrible if the darkies took over the synagogue?” without realizing the rabbi’s Cuban background. In 2011, Schwartz also allegedly complained to a director that Viñas wasn’t actually Jewish because of his “Sephardic/Hispanic background.”” [NYPost

“Bipartisan group urges Rex Tillerson to deport Nazi war criminal living in Queens” by Reuven Blau: “Jakiw Palij, 92, worked as a guard at the Nazi German Trawniki SS training camp in occupied Poland. “Mr. Palij supported the Nazi regime during the Holocaust,” the letter to Tillerson reads… “We are deeply concerned that the deportation of Mr. Palij is stalled,” the letter states. “Without very high-level involvement by your office and others in the administration, it appears likely that countries will not be willing to accept him.”” [NYDailyNews] • Property manager accused of adorning Queens condo with swastikas, Hitler posters [TRD

TRANSITION: “Top think tank hires ex-WSJ reporter Jay Solomon for North Korea project” by Michael Wilner: “Jay Solomon will serve for three months as a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, focusing on Pyongyang’s sale of missile systems from Yemen and Egypt to Syria and Iran. “I’m glad that we’re able to do this with Jay– he’s such a dogged reporter,” said Robert Satloff, executive director of the Institute… Solomon said he looks back fondly at his two decades at the Journal and regrets the episode. “I’m just sad about the whole thing. Dealing with Iran is so murky– it’s hard to fully understand what your sources are doing,” Solomon said. “I am not an arms dealer, I didn’t go to business with anyone.”” [JPost]

“Jack Rosenthal, Times Journalist and Civic Leader, Is Dead at 82” by Sam Roberts: “Jacob Rosenthal (he changed his name to Jack “to be more American,” he said) was born on June 30, 1935, in Tel Aviv to Manfred Rosenthal, a judge who became a bookkeeper after fleeing Nazi Germany, and the former Rachel Kaplan, a Lithuania native whom he had met while she was vacationing in the Middle East. Jack was 3 when the family moved to the United States to join relatives in Portland, Ore… Mr. Rosenthal joined The Times in Washington as its first national urban affairs correspondent (and among the last reporters to take notes on yellow legal pads with a fountain pen).” [NYTimes]

LongRead: “This Big Beef Exposes The Ugly Underbelly of Vegan Vlogging” by Roni Jacobson: “This wasn’t what [Anna] Scanlon, who is 33, had signed up for when she began vlogging in 2014. A scholar who researches the Holocaust, she’d started a beauty and lifestyle channel on YouTube for fun. After she was diagnosed with lupus and a chronic illness called interstitial cystitis in 2015, she started talking more and more about veganism as a way to cope with newfound dietary restrictions.  At first, Scanlon ignored the hate. She blocked Marlowe on YouNow and didn’t watch his videos about her. She also refused to read the sexist and antisemitic hate pouring forth about her in the comments section next to the stream, where commenters called her a “hideous jew” and said that they wished her family had “burned in the ovens.” But Marlowe’s followers nonetheless swarmed the comments section of her own profile.” [Wired

THE NEW FOMO — by Nick Stockton: “This other type of FOMO, the all-news, all-the-time kind, is new enough that nobody has really studied it much, yet of the half-dozen experts in sociology, anthropology, economics, and neurology I spoke to, all quickly recognized what I was describing, and some even admitted to feeling it themselves. “We scroll through our Twitter feeds, not seeking anything specific, just monitoring them so we don’t miss out on anything important,” says Shyam Sundar, a communications researcher at Pennsylvania State University. This impulse could stem from the chemical hits our brains receive with each news hit, but it could also derive from a primitive behavioral instinct—surveillance gratification-seeking, or the urge that drove our cave-dwelling ancestors to poke their heads out and check for predators.” [WiredMag]

DESSERT: “American Dream Announces Food Court Plans, World’s First Kosher Dining Hall” by Cecilia Levine: “The American Dream in East Rutherford… will feature fine restaurants and global cuisine “that will please the most discriminating palates,” the website says. “Combining the best of New York, celebrity chefs and global cuisine, the restaurants at American Dream™ will attract local, regional and international guests.”” [DailyVoice

BIRTHDAYS: Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker turns 65… CNN political analyst and former moderator of Meet the Press, David Gregory turns 47… Professor at UCSD and the 1990 Nobel Prize laureate in Economics, Harry Markowitz turns 90… Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University, he also teaches at Cardozo Law School, he is also the rabbi of Congregation B’nai Jehuda (The Yorkville Synagogue) in NYC, Rabbi J. David Bleich turns 81… Director of geriatric care management at the law offices of Roy W. Litherland, Lois G. Tager turns 76… Co-founder and president of Infinity Broadcasting (now known as CBS Radio), he eventually became the president and CEO of CBS, then he was the CEO of Sirius Radio (2004-2012), Mel Karmazin turns 74… Celebrity furniture designer known for his eponymous furniture brand, Dakota Jackson, Inc., he was born in Rego Park, Queens, NY as David Malon, Dakota Jackson turns 68… Senior principal at TSD Communications, formerly worked for Senator Ted Kennedy and the Obama White House, Ricki Seidman turns 62… Co-chair of the Real Estate practice and the Infrastructure practice at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, he is active in the RJC and serves on many Jewish communal boards, J. Philip Rosen turns 61… Essayist and long-time staff writer for The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik turns 61… Actor, producer and director Steve Guttenbergturns 59…

President of Pace University since August 2017, he was president of Oberlin College for ten years (2007-2017), Marvin Krislov turns 57… Woodland Hills, California resident, she is a professional organizer, Donna Barwald turns 55… 1986 winner of the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Children of a Lesser God, she is the only deaf performer to have won the award, Marlee Matlin turns 52… British Internet entrepreneur, journalist and blogger, he founded and ran the blog collective Gawker Media until it was bankrupted by Hulk Hogan, Nick Denton turns 51… Member of the Colorado House of Representatives (2000-2008), the last four years of which he served as Speaker, Andrew Romanoff turns 51… Regional Director of the Chicago office of the Anti-Defamation League, Lonnie Nasatir turns 48… President of Baseball Operations and General Manager of MLB’s Texas Rangers, Jon Daniels turns 40… CEO of the JCommerce Group, an e-commerce enterprise that services the Jewish community, David M. Perelman turns 28… Chief of staff at NYC-based HOF Capital, she was previously an events specialist for the Northeast Region of AIPAC, Samantha Rose (“Sammy”) Feinstein turns 27… Assistant White House press secretary, previously a staffer at the Republican National Committee, Natalie Strom (h/t Playbook)…

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