Daily Kickoff – Dec 9.

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News from the Weekend – 10th Annual Saban Forum: President Obama   – “Don’t Underestimate Political Shift In Iran” [Brookings] Full quote – “We have to not constantly assume that it’s not possible for Iran, like any country, to change over time. It may not be likely. If you asked me what is the likelihood that we’re able to arrive at the end state that I was just describing earlier [final agreement with Iran], I wouldn’t say that it’s more than 50/50. But we have to try.” Full Text and Video [JewishInsider]

Prime Minister Netanyahu at Saban Forum 2013: US-Israel see most things ‘eye-to-eye,’ Bibi tells Saban Forum [ToI] Full transcript [JewishInsider] — AP: Israeli leader predicts “cold peace” in Mideast [WashPost]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at Saban Forum 2013: Israel faces two existential threats, Kerry warns [JPost] — Full Transcript & Video [JewishInsider] — Politico Magazine: Does John Kerry make Hillary Clinton look bad? [PoliticoMag]

Must Watch: Charlie Rose interview Saban Capital Group CEO Haim Saban on Israel and Iran: [Bloomberg]

Saudi Intel Chief Met With Israeli Counterpart – and J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami? – in Geneva [FarsNews] — Iran, Saudi strategists spar, swap ideas, over Gulf security [Reuters] — U.S./Hagel Look to Reassure Gulf Allies Over Iran [WSJ] — Eyes on Iran, Navy in Gulf Stays at Ready [NYTimes] — Matthew Levitt on NPR assessing the fallout from a Hezbollah commander’s death [NPR]

Alexandros Peterson OpEd on JewishInsider.com – Israel’s Most Notable Partnership: “As the holiday of Hanukkah – the festival of lights – came to a close last week, it is worth considering Israel’s strategically important partnership with the ‘land of fire’: Azerbaijan. The only Muslim majority country to have friendly, sustained and substantive relations with Israel, Azerbaijan is not only a beacon of religious tolerance with a historical and currently thriving Jewish community, but also an important geopolitical partner just to the north of Iran.

–It behooves Israeli leaders and Jewish communities around the world to encourage this relationship, especially now that historical ties to Turkey are in tatters. In fact, Azerbaijan is now the largest outside investor in Turkey, due to a major pipeline project, and it is increasingly wielding influence in the greater Levant region. Azerbaijan is keen to become a technological and telecommunications hub for the Eurasian continent, so Israeli companies could seek partnerships for innovation in that sphere as well as others. Overall, as the nuclear and regional threat from Iran continues to loom large for both countries, Israel and Azerbaijan should continue to provide for their own mutual defense, strengthening an already substantive partnership amongst small nations that know how to seize the initiative.”[JewishInsider]— Yahoo Canada – Israel’s best friend: Stephen Harper [Yahoo]

Netanyahu missing Mandela memorial for cost reasons: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided not to attend a memorial service for Nelson Mandela this week because it is too expensive to travel to South Africa, Israeli media reported Sunday.”[Yahoo] — Haaretz: Is an axis of politicians conspiring to unseat Netanyahu? [Haaretz] — The Lapid-Bennett Alliance Is Breaking Down [DailyBeast] — Lapid Says Israel May Face Sanctions If Peace Talks Fail [Bloomberg] — Bennett in Australia: Israel can only depend on itself for security [JPost]

P5+1 talks on Iran’s nukes to resume today [ToI] — US Congress may throw wrench into Iran nuclear deal: “Senators return to Washington on Monday, for a decisive week. If the Democratic leadership opts against putting sanctions to a vote soon, sanction supporters could try to force their hand, for example through House legislation. In a final plea, Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before a House panel Tuesday in a bid to head off new punitive measures.” [AFP]

2016 Watch: NYTimes and New Yorker both feature profiles of New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand — NYTimes’s profile has an interesting lede – “If there were a chutzpah caucus in the United States Senate, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York would be its natural leader.” [NYTimes] — Strong Vanilla: The relentless rise of Kirsten Gillibrand [NewYorker]

NYPost Investigation: Brooklyn Jewish agency Relief Resources Inc. fits description of mystery nonprofit in Moreland probe: “The unnamed New York City nonprofit that appears to provide few services yet rakes in millions in taxpayer money, as described by a state anti-corruption panel, bears a strong resemblance to a Brooklyn agency.

–The state’s Moreland Commission, in a report issued last week, described its surveillance of a questionable storefront in New York City that received almost $3 million in pork-barrel funds to provide various medical services “with little scrutiny and no medical oversight.” The money came from a “geographically and politically diverse group of some of the state’s most powerful lawmakers.” [NYPost]

‘Lot’ of anger: Landmark Bialystoker Synagogue sues over property – “A Manhattan judge was slapped with a $25 million lawsuit for his role in the potential sale of lucrative property adjoining a landmark institution once run by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Fellow board members of the Bialystoker Synagogue are suing their president, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shlomo Hagler, over a dispute involving an ­L-shaped lot at Delancey Street and Bialystoker Place and that’s been owned by the orthodox congregation since 1987. In the suit,Baruch Singer and Lenny Greher claim that Hagler, the synagogue’s rabbi, Zvi Romm, and the chairman of its housing fund are barred from selling the property at 15-17 Bialystoker Place based on an April 2012 ruling by a Brooklyn rabbinical court.” [NYPost]

Jewish leader striked up friendship with future pope back in Buenos Aires: “It was September, not an easy time for a religious Jew to be traveling. The Jewish month of Tishrei was ending with its marathon of holy days. Kosher wine would be needed. There were Sabbath blessings to recite. Fortunately, Rabbi Abraham Skorka had a friend with the run of a hotel who arranged for kosher meals and said “amen” to the rabbi’s prayers. Skorka has been talking about this trip ever since, in interviews and meetings with Jewish groups, for two reasons: The hotel was inside the Vatican, and the friend was Pope Francis.” [Gannett]

AP Big Story – Cuban Jewish leaders vista jailed US subcontractor Alan Gross: “Cuban Jewish leaders said Friday that they celebrated Hanukkah with imprisoned U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross this week, two days after he marked four years in custody.” [AP]

Theodore Sasson OpEd: The Fracturing of American Jewry – “Many factors converged to shatter Jewish organizational unity in the political and philanthropic arenas. As Israel became polarized in the 1990s in response to the Oslo Peace Accords, politicians from rival political parties sought to rally their American Jewish supporters, a practice that has continued to the present. As the Israeli nonprofit sector grew, more organizations reached out directly to Diaspora Jewish donors. Increased travel and the digital revolution have brought American Jews into ever-greater contact with Israel, inspiring many to identify with particular charitable and political causes.

–By supporting diverse political and philanthropic agendas, American Jews are expressing closer ties to Israel. They are also behaving like other contemporary diaspora groups that typically support competing homeland political parties and charities. But the partisanship of American Jews comes at the price of political influence. As American Jews divide their support among rival and competing causes, their influence, in both Washington, D.C. and Israel will wane. The failure of the big establishment groups to stop the interim agreement with Iran — an agreement that Israel deemed dangerous — may be the first solid evidence of this new reality.”[Forward]

Real Estate RoundUp: Lightstone Group’s 59-story residential tower to rise on Fulton St. [DNA-Info] — Kushner’s First Puck Building Penthouse in Contract for $27.5 Million [Curbed] — Ashkenazy Acquisition’s Cross Keys shopping center to get makeover [TheSun] — “The key to Garth Drabinsky’s transformation from Fallen Tycoon to Comeback Kid could be a stunning partnership with the Jewish Canadian Ghermezian brothers, whose Triple Five company is putting together the American Dream Meadowlands Mall in New Jersey.” [TheStar]  

StartUp Nation: WSJ – Israeli PillCam Maker Given Imaging to be Bought by Coviden for $860 Million [WSJ] — Innovate Israel: Europe’s largest Israel-focused digital and tech conference. Notable guests – Yossi Vardi, Jeff Pulver, Isaac Applbaum, and Danny Seal. Video & Pics [JewishInsider] —  Watch: BloombergTV – Why Are There So Many Startups in Israel? Jon Medved answers [Bloomberg]

Thats all folks, have a great Monday! 

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