Daily Kickoff

Jewish Insider Kickoff

BREAKING: EU foreign ministers agree to put military wing of Hezbollah on EU terror list – Reuters quoting diplomats. 

BEHIND THE SCENES OF KERRY’S FRAGILE, SMALL WIN: “When John Kerry stepped onto his plane in Amman, Jordan, after announcing he had brokered a preliminary deal to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, his staff broke into applause. The U.S. secretary of state has invested his prestige and much of his time, through day-and-night shuttle diplomacy in six trips over six months, in reviving negotiations that broke off in September 2010. The immediate goal is for Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to meet in Washington “within the next week or so,” Kerry told reporters on July 19.

“With formidable odds, Kerry managed through his own willfulness and determination to produce the basis for talks,” Aaron David Miller, a former Mideast peace negotiator and adviser to several U.S. administrations, said in an interview. “This would not have occurred without John Kerry.” The flip side is that now “Kerry owns these talks” and must shoulder the burden of bringing Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to the table and keeping them there to negotiate a two-state solution, according to Miller, a vice president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. That was underscored in Kerry’s announcement, which was hedged with uncertainties.” [Bloomberg]

BUT, BOTH ABBA’S SPOKESMEN SAY NO DEAL YET TO RESTART TALKS: “A senior Palestinian official said the path to formal negotiations with Israel is still blocked, adding his voice to those of a number of other Palestinian leaders denying that agreement has been reached for US-brokered peace talks to resume. Contradicting Secretary of State John Kerry, spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement late Sunday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to send a delegate to Washington merely to continue lower-level preliminary talks with an Israeli counterpart about the terms for negotiations. A second Abbas spokesman, Yasser Abed Rabbo, had made similar comments earlier Sunday. Abu Rudeineh and Abed Rabbo are the only Palestinian officials authorized to speak on the matter.” [AP/Times of Israel]

KERRY MAY TAP INDYK AS PEACE ENVOY: “Former US ambassador to Israel and Clinton Near East envoy Martin Indyk may take a lead role in helping US Secretary of State John Kerry conduct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, diplomatic sources tell Al-Monitor, although an official cautioned that a decision has not been finalized.” [Al-Monitor]

INTRIGUE – Was Israel’s Latest ‘Air’ Attack on Syria from a Submarine? by Tom Gross in The Weekly Standard (also picked up by Drudge): “An attack two weeks ago that destroyed an advanced Russian missile shipment delivered to Syria’s Assad regime should also serve as a warning to Iran – and to those complacent Western diplomats who have (dangerously in my view) reconciled themselves to the idea of allowing Iran to go nuclear and then trying to contain it. For it seems that the July 5 attack on an arms depot near the Syrian naval base of Latakia, which has been attributed to Israel, came not from the air (as CNN and the New York Times reported last weekend) but from under the water.

Many Western officials who have apparently concluded that Israel could only destroy Iran’s nuclear program from the air – and that Israel does not have the capability to carry out such long-range air strikes in a decisive way – should take note. In recent years, Israel has greatly advanced its sea-based capabilities, and the geographical range of operations that Israel can mount from the sea, I am reliably told, now spans the entire globe. Israeli submarines are no longer confining themselves to the Mediterranean. Last Saturday, the United States appeared to confirm that Israel was behind the July 5 attack on 50 Russian Yakhont anti-ship missiles in Latakia. Both the New York Times and CNN quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying the strike was carried out by Israel from the air. The state-of-the-art Yakhont missiles have a range of 300 kilometers and are considered to be among the best of their kind in the world – for example, they can evade radar by flying just above water surface. They were of significant concern to both the U.S. and Israel because their range and sophistication meant they could neutralize the ability of both nations’ navies to patrol the region, and they could also complicate the ability of the U.S. or other states to enforce a future no-fly zone over Syria should they wish to implement one. Israel was also concerned that Syria would allow the missiles to fall into the hands of its arch enemy, the Iranian-controlled Hezbollah militia.

But on Sunday, a more intriguing scenario was raised when the (London) Sunday Times reported that the attack was not carried out from the air, but by precision-guided missiles fired from Israel’s German-made Dolphin-class submarines. I am told by informed sources that this is a more likely scenario.…American and European diplomats I have spoken to recently seem to have concluded that America doesn’t have the willingness to stop Iran from going nuclear, and Israel doesn’t have the means. They have not taken on board the full range of Israel’s ability to attack Iranian nuclear installations. The Israeli air force has limited flight range while carrying heavy payloads, but submarines can place themselves much closer to Iranian nuclear installations. Iran has sonar capabilities, and has devoted considerable resources to confronting both surface and underwater naval threats, yet it remains vulnerable to both. It is much harder to track the movement of submarines than it is of aircraft.

Combine this with the sophisticated electronic measures Israel is known to have mastered, for example, the use of EMP (electromagnetic pulses) and malicious computer code introduced into critical infrastructure, and possible special forces operations launched remotely, and it appears Iran and the West have more than an Israeli air strike to consider. An EMP of the kind Israel has developed, for example, can be emitted from installations the size of a suitcase smuggled into Iran by land and used to disable specific buildings or target specific offices – for example, the office of the Iranian defense minister, to make it impossible for him to communicate by phone or computer with the outside world for a period of time. It is still not too late for the Iranian regime to stand down or for the West to ratchet up sanctions to make them do so. If Iran does back down it may be a result of a realization that Israeli capacity to attack and stop them is far greater than might at first be apparent.” [Weekly Standard]

THE JEWISH HOME PARTY MINDMELD: Uri Ariel – ‘US Keeps Pollard in Jail and Demands We Free Killers’ – The US has kept Pollard in jail for 28 years. The same US is twisting Israel’s arm to free more than 80 terrorists, and Minister Uri Ariel, understandably, cannot understand the American mind. “What is going on in the minds of Americans when they  insist on keeping Jonathan Pollard in prison and demand  that Israel free terrorists” who have murdered Jews, Housing Minister Uri Ariel asked on Voice of Israel Sunday. “It really is amazing.” [Jewish Press]

OP-ED: John XXIII and John Paul II – Righteous Popes by Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein in the LA Times: “As millions of Roman Catholics rejoice in the news that two popes are being fast-tracked to sainthood, many Jews are smiling with them. Pope Francis has approved John XXIII and John Paul II for the church’s supreme honor in a process that quick-stepped protocol. Jews, on the other hand, will remember both of these men for taking steps that were a millennium in the making.” [LA Times]

BBC RADIO looks at The Story of the Talmud: “In the first of two programmes, Rabbi Naftali Brawer delves into one of the greatest books ever written holding the key to unlocking Jewish thinking and history. Traveling to Jerusalem, he gains rare access to one of the world’s leading ultra-orthodox yeshivas – the Mir. Here he finds young men who will study these ancient Hebrew and Aramaic texts, full time, for anything up to 30 or 40 years. They explain how arguing and debate are the ways to understand the ancient wisdom of the rabbis that have contributed to the Talmud though the ages and still telling you everything you need to know to be a Jew today. The Talmud is not about the arrival but the journey and it’s less about about finding answers than discovering what the questions are.

Tracing the history of the Talmud, Rabbi Naftali heads to the Galilee to the archaeological site of Beit She’arim, the remains of an ancient city, where shortly after the destruction of the 2nd Temple, the first words of this book were written down. He discovers that the Talmud was an audacious project defying one of the key Jewish laws which forbade writing down the Oral Laws of Moses. Its creation was deemed necessary in order to preserve Jewish culture and practice which, at this time, was facing extinction. Rabbi Naftali meets some of the greatest Jewish minds and scholars in the world today: Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, described by Time Magazine as a ‘one in a millennium scholar’, who has published his own edition of the Talmud; Gila Fine – one of the growing number of female orthodox academics working with the Talmud. The programme ends with a moving story from leading Talmudic scholar and holocaust survivor, David Weiss Halivni, who explains how the Talmud sustained him in the concentration camps. [BBC Radio]

FIRST OF ITS KIND – A Jewish Museum Opens in Alaska: “The project, explained Esty Greenberg, was launched by a matching fund campaign by Chicago Philanthropists Rabbi Morris and Delicia Esformes back in 2007. It then turned into “a united effort on behalf of our entire Alaskan community to create a permanent home for the rich history of Jewish life and culture in Alaska.” U.S. Senator Mark Begich, U.S. Congressman Don Young, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell, Rasmuson Foundation CEO Diane Kaplan and Anchorage Museum Director Jim Pepper Henry were among the guests who turned out to honor the generous commitment of Rabbi Morris and Delicia Esformes to support Jewish life in one of the most remote outposts in the world.” [Lubavitch.com]

FORWARD DIVE: After Sandy, Bill to Allow FEMA Disaster Aid for Synagogues Remains Stalled – “A bill that swept through the House of Representatives would effectively revise government restrictions on FEMA, but it has been dormant in the Senate since March. The bill has been backlogged behind other legislation such as immigration reform, and stymied by Senate leaders who are reluctant to approve a bill that challenges the First Amendment. To reinvigorate the discussion, proponents of the bill introduced a counterpart bill into the Senate on July 10 to alleviate concern over separation of church and state issues. But a host of synagogues that once anxiously anticipated a decision now doubt that the bill will ever become a law. And while disillusionment has set in, the repair costs, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars for many synagogues, have not gone away.

A glimmer of hope may be arriving shortly. In early July, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Roy Blunt, respectively a Democrat of New York and a Republican of Missouri, introduced a counterpart to the House’s Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013, which was approved with a vote of 354-72 in February. In hopes of assuaging concerns from FEMA and civil liberties groups over religion-state separation issues, the new Senate bill limits assistance to houses of worship to repair of their physical structures and support systems, such as heating or air-conditioning. Items of religious character such as Bibles, Torahs, Korans, hymnals, or iconography used for religious worship, are excluded.
“Faith-based groups deserve the same opportunities to receive federal disaster aid as other nonprofit organizations,” Blunt said in a statement after the bill was introduced. The revised bill will be referred to the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, where proponents hope the committee, chaired by Delaware senator Democrat Tom Carper, will now take a deeper look at providing aid.” [Forward]

CRAINS NEW YORK investigates Dov Hikind’s radio program and the multiple potential conflicts of interest it entails. [Crain’s New York]

Jewish WOMEN Donor Battle: RNC Raises $2.6 Million More Than DNC in June. The RNC received $32,000 from Miriam Adelson while the DNC received the same amount from Cheryl Saban during June. [Roll Call]

BUSINESS BRIEFS: note to readers: at times we’ll explain the Jewish connection or angle and at times we won’t. Where we don’t it is generally because we are following the view that if one is meant to know the connection then they already know it.

STERNLICHT MAKES BID FOR SAKS: “A new bidder has emerged for the company that owns Saks Fifth Avenue — and he’s mainly interested in the Fifth Avenue part. Barry Sternlicht — the New York real-estate titan who created the W Hotels chain — has submitted a bid for the swanky department-store chain, The Post has learned. While the size of the bid couldn’t be learned, one source said Sternlicht has offered between $17 and $18 a share, roughly equal to an offer from Hudson’s Bay, the Canada-based owner of Lord & Taylor which is equal to roughly $2.5 billion. A second source, however, cautioned that the figure may represent the final price the bidders would be willing to pay to close a deal. Initial bids, according to the source, may have come in lower, in the $15 to $16 range.

However, Sternlicht may be emerging as the surprise leader in what is shaping up as a three-horse race as his bid, sources said. That’s partly because Sternlicht, unlike Hudson’s Bay, envisions Saks CEO Steve Sadove remaining in his role. A third bidder, believed to be a Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund, most likely based in the oil-rich Persian Gulf state of Qatar, is said to be also in the running. As exclusively reported by The Post, the Qataris were in advanced talks to acquire Neiman Marcus this spring. Those talks cooled, spurring Neiman to file for a public stock offering last month. “Barry is salivating over the Fifth Avenue flagship,” according to a source close to Sternlicht, noting that the retailer’s famous store next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral has been valued by some analysts at upwards of $1 billion.” [NY Post]

SILVERSTEIN CAN’T GET $3.5 Billion From Airlines for 9/11, Judge Rules: Real estate developerLarry Silverstein can’t seek $3.5 billion from airlines whose planes were hijacked by terrorists and flown into the World Trade Center’s twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, a judge ruled. Silverstein, who leased the skyscrapers about two months before they were destroyed, already collected $4.1 billion from insurers and can’t collect twice under New York law, U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein ruled yesterday in a courtroom less than a mile and a half from the World Trade Center site.” [Bloomberg]

GOOD HEAVENS – 3 Religious Institutions Could Cash In in Midtown: “Three of the city’s biggest religious landmarks could earn as much as $1.1 billion under new changes to the city’s controversial East Midtown rezoning proposal. The modifications, unveiled at a press briefing Thursday, would allow St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, and Central Synagogue, which together own millions of square feet in air-rights, to sell those rights to developers seeking to build skyscrapers not immediately adjacent to the religious buildings, a stipulation normally required by city law.” [DNA Info]

“65M Sitt-uation set for Milford stores” – “The retail stores at the Milford Plaza Hotel are being sold toJoseph Sitt of Thor Equities for $65 million, The Post has learned. Thor will buy the 27,456 square-foot slice of the mammoth Times Square-area hotel for $2,730 a square foot, sources said. The 27-story hotel, the city’s largest when it was completed in 1928, has 1,331 rooms and amenities that are being upgraded by new owners.” [NY POST]

KKR, AIG, AXA compete to acquire IDB’s 27.5% stake in Clal Insurance: “IDB Holding has announced that it has received bids from several interested parties for the acquisition of its 27.5% stake in Clal Insurance, in response to tender to offload half its stake in the company.” [IBR]


YES WAZE OR NO WAZE, “After giving up on buying Waze due to the extreme high price tag, Applecontinues to acquire small startups in the mapping space and Israelis continue to cash in. Last weekend there were a number of reports published that Apple acquired two small start-up companies engaged in the mapping. First was Canadian based Locationary. Similar to Waze in that it gathers information from the community based on Crowdsourcing users, but different in that it doesn’t track navigation but rather information on businesses and services that users frequent; in other words, what happens when the Yellow Pages meets Wikipedia. According to Bloomberg , the other company is HopStop, a U.S. based company with offices in New York, but a significant portion of its capital was actually raised from Israeli investors including serial entrepreneur Yaron Galai and Daniel Recanati’s investment fund, Rhodium.” [GeekTime]

START-APP NATION – 95% of Israeli apps written in English: “95% of applications developed in Israel are written in English. Only 5% of applications, intended for the domestic market, are written in Hebrew. Israeli application developers do not target their work only for the English-speaking market, but translate them into other languages. According to a survey by One Hour Translation, 90% of applications in Israel are translated into other languages, besides English.” [Globes]

MACCABIAH MOMENT: Ambassador Dan Shapiro threw out the first pitch at the USA vs. Israel Baseball Game. [YouTube]

DESSERT: Jewish couple featured in Heineken’s Departure Roulette Video – He wants to press the button, she wants to go home. [YouTube]

Thats all folks, have a great Monday! 

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