Daily Kickoff – Dec. 10th

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Driving the Day: Bipartisan Senate group nears deal on new Iran sanctions – “A bipartisan group of Senators is close to an agreement on tougher Iran sanctions in opposition to the White House, which is easing them as part of an interim accord Tehran struck with world powers aimed at curbing its nuclear ambitions, CNN has learned. A Senate deal would include a new round of sanctions to begin in six months and would not allow for the enrichment of uranium. But it would permit commercial nuclear power as long as it was monitored by the international community. The bipartisan group includes Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York; Robert Menendez of New Jersey; Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mark Kirk of Illinois.” [CNN] “Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Time magazine in Tehran during the weekend that new sanctions – even if delayed – would kill the agreement reached in Geneva. “The entire deal (would be) dead,” Zarif said, adding that Iran’s parliament could also adopt legislation that would go into effect if talks fail. “But if we start doing that, I don’t think that we will be getting anywhere.” [Reuters]

Secretary of State John Kerry to Visit Israel, Again! – According to the State Department, John Kerry will travel to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Tacloban, and Manila from Dec. 11-18, 2013. In Jerusalem, Kerry will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss a range of issues including Iran and the ongoing final status negotiations with the Palestinians. In Ramallah, Kerry will meet with President Abbas, where he will also discuss the ongoing final status negotiations, among other issues. [StateDept]

Last Night: John Kerry and David Brooks addressed the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Centennial Celebration Dinner in DC — Kerry: “We will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Not now. Not Ever.” “Spoke today with Netanyahu, after my 8th trip to Israel, back for dinner with Bibi on Thursday – this is a commute folks.” David Brooks: “When we do philanthropy, it’s not enough to give money. It’s important to communicate the soft and squishy things.” [JewishInsider] — (Also watch David Brook’s Keynote at Yeshiva University’s Hanukkah Convocation [YouTube])

US ambassador Dan Shapiro rejects talk of Iran – Palestinian ‘linkage’: “The United States hasn’t tied progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the US ambassador to Israel said Monday morning, playing down recent chatter regarding a possible “linkage” between the two diplomatic processes.” [ToI]

Top Talker – Jeffrey Goldberg: Israel Should Offer Palestinians Exactly What They Want — “Let’s say that Ya’alon and the many members of the ruling Likud Party who share his view are entirely correct: Israel has no partner. If this is the case, the path for Netanyahu’s government is clear. It should, as an opening gambit and in public, offer the Palestinian Authority most of what the international community wants it to offer: 100 percent of the West Bank, with appropriate land swaps so that the large settlement blocs could remain part of Israel; a capital in East Jerusalem; and the symbolic right of return, and compensation, for the descendants of Palestinian refugees.

–If the Palestinian Authority is no partner for peace — in other words, if it is not actually seeking an equitable two-state solution, but is seeking instead Israel’s destruction — then what harm could come from such an Israeli offer? The Palestinians would certainly reject it. They would never agree to stop making claims against Israel, which would be one condition of an internationally recognized peace deal. They would never agree to a state that included only the West Bank and Gaza, because such a state, as Ya’alon is implying, is not their goal. Such an offer would actually benefit Israel in many ways. Most of the world already endorses the idea of a Palestinian state centered on the West Bank, and much of the world is angry at Israel, blaming it for blocking the birth of such a state. Israel could, in a single moment, shift the narrative entirely, placing the onus for the continued impasse on the Palestinians. And if Ya’alon is correct, there would be no danger that the Palestinians would accept the deal.

–The Netanyahu government will not do this because it is not particularly brave.Because doing this will cause the settlers and their sympathizers, who represent a core constituency of the ruling coalition, to erupt in fury. And because secretly the Netanyahu government understands that some Palestinians might, in fact, be ready for such a historic compromise.” [Bloomberg]

Palestinians: U.S. seeks delay in releasing Palestinian terrorists — “Palestinian officials say U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wants to link an upcoming release of Palestinian prisoners by Israel to a framework agreement he hopes to reach in peace talks between the two sides. Yasser Abed Rabbo, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, alleged Monday that the U.S. is using the prisoners to “blackmail” the Palestinians to accept a vague framework deal that fails to meet Palestinian demands.” [AP] — Al Jazeera Fires Reporter Who Questioned Objectivity of Arafat Poison Rumors Coverage [FreeBeacon]

NYTimes: Israel to Allow Building Materials Into Gaza – Jodi Rudoren: Under pressure from the United Nations amid a mounting economic and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, Israel has agreed to restart the transfer of construction materials to Gaza on Tuesday after an eight-week hiatus. [NYTimes] — Israel, Jordan, Palestinians to Sign Water-Supply Agreement: Deal a Rare Example of Cooperation in an Embittered Political Environment [WSJ]

‘No more business as usual’ — Israel passes law to break up big conglomerates: The Israeli parliament passed legislation on Monday aimed at improving economic competition by halting pyramid structures in companies and breaking up large conglomerates blamed for high living costs. The move will, over the next several years, reduce the amount of concentration of corporate power in Israel, one of the highest in the developed world. The government estimates that the country’s 10 largest business groups control 41 percent of the market value of public companies. [Reuters]

5 years later, Madoff still in the news: Israeli law office defeats $60 million Madoff-spin-off against Sonja Kohn in British court [JPost] — WSJ interviews Bernie Madoff: Prison? ‘This is as good as it gets.’ His Whistleblower? an ‘idiot.’ Fed Stimulus? Greatest Manipulation He’s Ever Seen [WSJ] — Madoff Victims Recount the Long Road Back [WSJ] — Madoff Wind-Down Tab Tops $820 Million [WSJ]

Florida Jewish congressman loses $18 million in loan scheme: “U.S. Representative Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, lost about $18 million in a scheme involving a Reston, Virginia-based firm that loaned customers funds in exchange for securities posted as collateral, his office said on Monday. The head of the firm, William Dean Chapman, was sentenced to a lengthy prison term by a federal court judge in Alexandria, Virginia, last week for defrauding scores of investors of more than $35 million.” [Reuters]

Jewish Community Relations Council of New York offers $5,000 reward for ‘knockout game’ arrests [News12Brooklyn] — Rev. Al Sharpton in Tablet Mag: Everyone Should Speak Out Against Knockout Attacks on Jews [TabletMag]

WashPost Debate: Differing letters to the editor on whether Rabbi Levi Shemtov’s National Menorah Lighting needs brighter list of luminaries with a celebrity performance from a Kelly Clarkson or Adam Levine like the National Christmas Tree Lighting [WP] Or ‘Enough with the Christmas-Hanukkah competitions [WP]

Forward: Ron Perelman Is a Mix of Tabloid Headlines and Chabad Charity – by Nathan Guttman: The Perelmans’ contributions to the Jewish community are undergoing a generational shift. While Raymond Perelman, the family patriarch, made his mark on Conservative Judaism by funding day schools and synagogues, his son Ronald Perelman’s personal draw to Orthodox life is translated into more attention being given to Chabad, and more donations going to Chabad-related causes. In Orthodox circles, Ronald Perelman is known for his strict observance, keeping kosher wherever he travels and flying rabbinical students across the globe to make a minyan for Sabbath prayers. “I believe that God plays this enormous role in my life, and I believe that it’s my obligation to give back and to follow the rules that were set,” Ronald Perelman said in a 2011 interview.

–His path to Orthodoxy began with a meeting almost five decades ago in Philadelphia with Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, who was close to the late Lubavitcher rebbe and now chairs the executive committee of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, the umbrella organization of the international Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Perelman quickly embraced an observant lifestyle. He does not work or answer the phone on the Sabbath, and, according to friends, studies Torah every day. He prays at his own synagogue, built next to his Manhattan home on 63rd Street, and has an aide make sure that a needed minyan of 10 Jewish men is available for prayer each weekend.

–The businessman has shown his gratitude to Chabad by becoming one of the movement’s main benefactors. Officials in Chabad would not put a dollar sum on his contributions, but they noted he was among the top givers. When the rebbe’s wife, Chaya Mushka Schneerson, died in 1988, Shemtov followed the widowed rabbi’s wish to commemorate his wife by investing in Jewish women’s education. He turned to Perelman to fund the building of Beth Rivka girls school, in Brooklyn. When the rebbe saw the work being done on the site, he made a $470 donation, symbolizing the numeric value of the letters of his late wife’s Hebrew name. Perelman responded immediately with an extra $470,000.
–“He is philanthropically an enabler,” said Shemtov’s son, Rabbi Levi Shemtov,director of American Friends of Lubavitch, in Washington. “He doesn’t like to give instead of others, but he is always there to help when others do their share and there is still a need, especially if he can help bring something important to fruition or over the finish line.” Several years ago, Perelman gave a seven-figure gift to support new Chabad emissaries around the world, after learning that posts were vacant due to lack of funding.” [Forward]

NY1 interview with Jewish Billionaire Mort Zuckerman: Life is better than any fantasy – “Mort Zuckerman is known as a billionaire, real estate magnate, media mogul and philanthropist. Not bad for a guy who says he came here from Canada without much money. “I think this country is an extraordinary country and a country of unbelievable opportunity for people like myself who came here not knowing anybody, completely broke and I just had an amazing run,” he said.

Zuckerman came to the U.S. from Montreal in the early sixties to attend the Wharton Business School of Economics, then Harvard Law. He eventually moved to New York in 1984. He’s been portrayed an icon of American business, but he still identifies strongly with being an immigrant. Mort Zuckerman may be on the inside of American business, media and philanthropy, but growing up in Montreal, he very much felt like the outsider. As a Jew, Zuckerman felt that French resentment of English-speaking Canada was directed at Jews. “We used to be attacked on the way to school by French gangs and that made me one of the fastest two block runners in the history of Montreal,” he said. “I saw what anti-Semitism was, nor were you able for a long time to buy homes in Montreal if you were Jewish, so there was that kind of discrimination,” he said.”[JewishInsider]

NYTimes: Laurence Graff, the Jewish ‘King of Diamonds,’ Reveals Some Secrets –“Laurence Graff, the self-styled King of Diamonds, was decorated with the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth this year, 60 years after he took up jewelry in London as a 15-year-old apprentice. “Every day is a surprise, every day is a joy,” Mr. Graff said in a recent conversation. “I have seen so many amazing gems.” One tale this diamond buccaneer rarely reveals is the theater of creativity that plays behind the curtains of his workshop, buried in the subterranean entrails of a building in the elegant Mayfair district of London. Only a chosen few may enter, through a door protected by a discreet security system, this magical but very private jewelry underworld. This is probably the largest fine jewelry workshop in Europe, according to its manager, Mr. Graff’s brother Raymond. Mr. Graff has come a long way since he sat at a bench in Hatton Garden, London’s jewelry center, being told at age 15 by his boss that he was never going to make it. Maybe, in the distant future, one of the apprentices in his workshop will grow up to challenge the diamond king’s crown.” [NYTimes]

Page 6: Jewish Taxi king Evgeny Friedman marks a milestone – “No one seemed to take a taxi to Evgeny (Gene) Freidman’s party at the University Club. The Russian émigré owns 900 NYC taxi medallions (worth $1.2 million each), but the guests arrived in Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and various German rides. The event was a baby-naming ceremony to celebrate the birth of Freidman and wife Sandra’s new daughter, Leyla. Among those in attendance: Jacob (the Jeweler) Arabo, Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Park East Synagogue, p.r. guru Ronn Torossian and various real estate developers who griped about the club’s dress code requiring neckties even on Sunday.”[NYPost]

Real Estate RoundUp

Lloyd Blankfein, Leon Black said to buy into $1 Billion Miami Beach Condo Project:“For people who have seen everything, this is something you haven’t seen yet,” billionaire Len Blavatnik told 150 dinner guests in Miami last week during the largest U.S. art fair. They came to celebrate the $1 billion Faena Miami Beach, an oceanfront development for the mega-rich whose advance buyers include Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein and Apollo Global Management LLC co-founder Leon Black, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked for anonymity because the information isn’t public.” [Bloomberg]

Kushner Family Backs Online Marketplace: “Joshua Kushner‘s Thrive Capital, a private-equity and venture-capital firm, has just invested $4 million in tech startup Honest Buildings, an online marketplace linking building-services providers with property owners. Another member of the Kushner family, Joshua’s older brother Jared, joined the board of Honest Buildings in mid-November. Jared Kushner is chief executive of Kushner Cos., the family’s diversified real-estate organization that has completed more than $10 billion in real-estate transactions since 2007.

–Honest Buildings’ signature product, HB Match, enables building-services providers to create free, online portfolios of their work. Honest Buildings then evaluates the portfolios to see if they are appropriate for each specific property owner, helping to drive transactions between the owners and service providers. Jared Kushner said his team started using the platform about six months ago and found it useful. “It’s a very simple concept but very efficient,” said Mr. Kushner. “We were definitely saving money but I care less about that when it comes to building services and more about finding the right person for the job. If you find a good trade and they do it right, you use them again.” [WSJ]

Retail real estate brokers, agents optimistic on filling space at Ghermezian’s American Dream Meadowlands mega mall: “Don Ghermezian, president of Triple Five, the developer of American Dream, said during a break in meetings that the mall is attracting a lot of leasing interest, although the company is not yet able to announce tenants. “We have eight or nine leasing agents talking to us right now” he said.” [NorthJersey]

Dessert: Indiegogo campaign to create the first single-malt whiskey distillery in the land of Israel – Milk & Honey Distillery – 20 days left and $18,792 raised of the $65,000 goal [Indiegogo]

Thats all folks, have a great Tuesday!

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