Jewish Insider Kickoff


@AP TWEETS – BREAKING: Secretary of State Kerry flying to West Bank to press effort for new Israeli-Palestinian talks

This comes after Abbas delayed decision on renewing peace talks with Israel yesterday.

REUTERS: Palestinian leaders put off a decision on Thursday about restarting peace talks with Israel, with most saying Israel must first meet their terms before negotiations can start, a Palestinian official said. [Reuters]

OREN NYTimes Exit Interview – ‘is mulling a future in Israeli politics: NYTimes Q – Last week, Mr. Netanyahu sounded a fresh alarm about Iran’s determination to build a nuclear weapon. Are we heading into a new period of U.S.-Israel tension over Iran? OREN A – No. I think that we’re in a different place, certainly, than even a year ago, with much better communication and understanding. We see the same intel; we interpret it virtually the same way. But the fundamental structural difference between the United States and Israel remains. America’s clock is large and slow, and our clock is small and fast. And what we have is this dialogue between clocks.

With the election of [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani, people are saying, “Well, there should be another round of negotiation to see whether he’s truly moderate.” There’s a basic problem, which is: he doesn’t make the nuclear policy, and in the past, he’s gone on record saying that Iran should publicly adopt a moderate policy while continuing to install centrifuges.

NYTimes Q – Israel had suspicions about the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt. So was the army’s ouster of Mohamed Morsi a positive or negative development for Israel? OREN A – Israel has a paramount interest in a stable, financially secure, and preferably democratic Egypt. The last thing we want to see is Egypt as a failed state. We also have an interest in the preservation of American influence in Egypt. And our principle interest is the preservation of the peace. American aid is a source of some controversy. The aid was extended to the Egyptians under the rubric of the 1979 peace treaty. Since we want the peace to be continued, you can understand what our position is on aid. You can extrapolate.

NYTimes Q – How has the upheaval in the Middle East changed Israel’s place in the world? OREN A – What the last few years have done is underscore Israel’s success as a highly functioning democracy — a rambunctious democracy, but a highly functioning democracy. We managed to avert a major war in Gaza. We have not been dragged into various conflicts around us. We’ve been able to put our strategic relationship with the United States on vastly improved footing.

NYTimes Q – Why, then, has it coincided with increased questions about Israel’s legitimacy? OREN A – I think that when confronted with the dizzying and dismaying complexities of the Middle East, some people want to latch on to simplistic answers: “All of this is happening because some Israelis put a caravan on a hill in the West Bank.” That would make it somehow palatable, understandable. Sometimes, too, Israelis look for simple answers. What’s the big issue in Israel today? The big issue is ultra-Orthodox service in the military. The world is unraveling around us and this is what Israelis are focusing on, because they want to focus on a situation they can impact. [NYTimes]

ISRAEL IS LETTING ITS GUARD DOWN by Mark Helprin in the WSJ: “If finally compelled to do so, Israel is able to destroy the Iranian nuclear-weapons program, even if at breathtaking risk. Whether or not Israel succeeds on that front, it faces yet another existential military problem, less immediate and on a different register, in regard to which it has made the wrong choice.” [WSJ]

RABBI VERSUS RABBI IN $17 BILLION ROW OVER DOT-KOSHER: “A battle to control the word “kosher” in Internet addresses is pitting Jewish groups against each other to determine whether a food prepared under ancient strictures should have a new marketplace online. The Internet’s organizing body, called Icann, is meeting this week in the South African port city of Durban to begin a major expansion of domain names. That may include a decision on who can operate and license “dot-kosher” as a suffix for Web addresses, the same way “dot-com” and “dot-net” are used.

Five organizations have banded together to oppose the sole applicant for dot-kosher, Kosher Marketing Assets, saying it seeks to profit from a sacred tradition that shouldn’t be over-commercialized. The two sides, which both are in the business of certifying food as kosher, are at odds over how Internet users will find such products in the future. “We think that if the term ‘kosher,’ which has important meaning in the Jewish religion, is commercialized, it will do a disservice to how religion in general should be treated and will harm the kosher public specifically,” said Harvey Blitz, the Kashruth Commission chairman of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, one of the five groups. The New York-based organization oversees OU Kosher, the world’s largest certification agency. Kosher Marketing Assets is a unit of OK Kosher Certification, a Brooklyn, New York-based competitor to OU Kosher. Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, OK Kosher’s CEO, said he never intended to control the potential domain name unilaterally and said he was open to working with the five groups — the Orthodox Union, STAR-K Kosher Certification Inc., Chicago Rabbinical Council Inc., the Kashruth Council of Canada, and Kosher Supervision Service Inc., better known as the KOF-K.

Products that are certified kosher include breakfast cereals like Kellogg Co. (K:US)’s Rice Krispies as well as traditional Jewish food like matzo. The size of the market for food deliberately bought because it is kosher is expected to reach about $17 billion this year, according to Packaged Facts, a market-research firm. Exclusive control of the domain name could give its owner sway over the kosher supply chain, said Larry Finkel, director of food research at Packaged Facts. “It’s like losing access if you’re not tying into that domain,” Finkel said in an interview. “It’s sort of like being excluded from Wal-Mart.”

Icann — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — began accepting applications for generic top-level domain names, or gTLDs, in January 2012. In November, Kosher Marketing Assets, the OK Kosher unit, filed an application for dot-kosher, with a mission to “promote kosher food certification in general, and OK Certification and its clients in particular.” While only clients who pass “rigorous certification” tests would be allowed to use the gTLD, OK Kosher said in its application it expected to have more than 600 licensees by its third year of operation. OK Kosher supervises products including Fruity Pebbles cereal and Maxwell House coffee. Applying for a gTLD doesn’t come cheap, at close to $200,000 including the evaluation fee and legal services, OK Kosher’s Levy said in a telephone interview.

Blitz of the Orthodox Union, which provides kosher certification to items like Duncan Hines cake mixes and StarKist Tuna, said his group had no advance notice of OK Kosher’s bid and moved to block it as soon as it learned of the application. While it’s true his organization charges a fee for certification, “we got into this to make kosher food available,” not as a commercial pursuit, Blitz said. “We were concerned by the language in the application,” which stated that a single agency would have the right to grant use of the kosher domain name, Avrom Pollak, the president of Star-K and also a rabbi, said in an interview. A meeting between the two sides produced no agreement. OK’s Levy says he invited the groups to join his organization in overseeing the dot-kosher domain name. “They weren’t interested,” Levy said. “They don’t have to become our partners, but they can’t now complain we’re trying to brazenly control dot-kosher.” The dispute marks a departure from past cooperation. Individual ingredients comprising a food product, may, for example, be certified by any one of the organizations and then combined into one final product that is certified by only one. The five groups have filed a formal objection with Icann and have also appealed to the new U.S. secretary of commerce, Penny Pritzker. Both sides have hired Washington lawyers to press their cases.

Potentially key to the dot-kosher dispute is the fate of an application for the “dot-halal” domain name. Halal refers to the Muslim set of rules on food preparation and consumption. The United Arab Emirates, India and Saudi Arabia have all registered their opposition to any one entity owning dot-halal though Icann’s Governmental Advisory Committee, which provides countries with a forum to protest domain names. The five Orthodox groups have asked Icann to use the same logic in the dot-kosher decision, while Kosher Marketing Assets argues that no country has complained about its bid. Icann’s Namazi declined to comment on the status of halal “as a matter of policy.”

In the kosher case, both sides say they’re still hopeful their dispute can be resolved amicably. “We wanted this to be low-key,” Star-K’s Pollak said. “We are not interested in having this become a major battlefield.” [Bloomberg]

JEWISH SPIES TO WATCH – Charlie Spies on Politico’s list of 50 Politicos to Watch: Outside money is here to stay — and so is Charlie Spies. “As long as we have a Constitution, outside money’s not going anyplace,” the 40-year-old election attorney at Clark Hill said about the proliferation of super PACs, political nonprofits and other free-spending outside groups.

Spies — along with former 2008 Romney campaign staffers Carl Forti and Larry McCarthy — launched the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future in late 2010. It was an unquestioned runaway fundraising success — tapping Romney’s deep-pocketed fundraising base and helping propel the former Massachusetts governor through a crowded, chaotic primary season. It ultimately spent $153 million throughout the 2012 cycle. Restore Our Future came about when Spies and others reflected on the 2008 Romney campaign, for which he served as counsel and chief financial officer. It was clear to him that Romney was beaten badly by outside groups in that race — and it cost him dearly. Mike Huckabee, for example, was boosted by a pro-fair-tax outside group in the Iowa primary. Romney had nothing similar. Spies says he’s had some early conversations about a possible role in 2016, but he’s currently focused on helping Republicans retain their House majority. Spies recently signed on as a senior adviser to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with the nonprofit American Action Network. That group aims to help the GOP retain the House. “Without Speaker [John] Boehner and his team, you’ve got unfettered Democrat control,” Spies said, adding that “2016 will be fun — but we can focus on it in 2015.”

Spies recalls his first political memory as his father — then a Republican-appointed U.S. attorney — was fired when Jimmy Carter won the presidency in 1976. A Michigan native, he worked on Ronna Romney’s U.S. Senate campaigns in 1994 and 1996. (Ronna Romney — Mitt’s sister-in law — lost the primary in 1994 and the general election in 1996.) Spies moved on to work for the National Republican Senatorial Committee during law school, then had a stint at the Federal Election Commission. He jokes that he was into election law before it was cool. “If you were at the bar and you said ‘what kind of law do you do,’ people would yawn and move on,” he said. The 2000 recount changed all that — and election law has exploded in the years since. [POLITICO]

PAUL SINGER

Singer to raise $2B for fund: Hedge fund mogul Paul Singer is looking to raise another $2 billion for his $22 billion Elliott Management. Singer told investors this week that he wants to build up a sizable war chest to put to work in anticipation of another “abrupt shift” in the markets, like what happened in 2008. At that time, his fund moved quickly to buy such assets as the bankrupt debt of Lehman Brothers. Elliott made a bundle off its efforts, gaining more than 30 percent in 2009. “We believe that the next large pool of opportunities is likely to develop suddenly, and in significant size, and the entry points to establish desirable positions may disappear just as quickly,” the firm wrote to investors in an email Tuesday announcing the capital raise. [NYPost]

IMF may ask US Supreme Court to support Argentina over Singer in debt fight: In a first, the International Monetary Fund has said it will consider filing a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court supporting Argentina’s position in a long-running debt fight with hedge funds. The IMF has never before made such a filing before the highest U.S. legal body, and its position is particularly remarkable given the rocky relationship it has had with the South American republic in recent years. But on Tuesday, the IMF sent a letter to plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Argentina, noting that its managing director, Christine Lagarde, would ask the fund’s executive board to submit the brief before a July 26 deadline. Argentina has for years been locked in lawsuits with creditors over portions of debt it defaulted on in late 2001. Although the nation was able to renegotiate more than 90% of the nearly $100 billion it originally defaulted on, some holdout bondholders – including hedge funds Elliott Management, run by Paul Singer, and Aurelius Capital Management – have refused a deal and instead are demanding face value plus interest. [LA Times]

STARTUP NATION

Israeli DiverGuard launches new Indiegogo campaign [GeekTime]

TAYKEY – a platform that connects advertisers with audiences based on real-time interest data from social networks, has today announced a new $6 million funding round. Founder and CEO Amit Avner tells us that brands including Unilever, Landrover, Paramount Studios, Dell and GE currently use Taykey, which is taking the traditional ad exchange model and bringing it into the social age. “Doubleclick for right now,” as he puts it. [The Next Web]

Irish Start-Ups to Compete in Start Tel Aviv International Competition [Silicon Republic]

Thats all folks, have a great Friday!

**Have a tip, suggestion, or even an op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Email editors@jewishinsider.com**


Comments are closed.