Daily Kickoff

Jewish Insider Kickoff

TOP TALKER – ‘SEVEN REASONS THERE’S HOPE FOR ISRAELI – PALESTINIAN PEACE’ by Ben Birnbaum in the New Republic: “John Kerry faced nearly universal skepticism when he set out to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table after five years of shuttle diplomacy. Now that he has succeeded against all odds, that pessimism will shift to the prospects for an actual agreement. Nobody has ever gone broke betting against Israeli-Palestinian peace—I certainly wouldn’t take even money on the chances this time around—and there remain many obstacles and unanswered questions (Will Hamas and other regional spoilers torpedo the process? Can an Israeli government confront an entrenched settlement enterprise? Are both leaders prepared to make the compromises that will be necessary for an agreement?) And yet the basic conditions for Israeli-Palestinian peace remain—at least for now—and some of them have begun to seem even more favorable in recent months.” 7 Reasons – 1. John Kerry; 2. Benjamin Netanyahu; 3. The Israeli Coalition; 4. Israeli Public Opinion; 5. The Palestinian Leadership; 6. The Arab League; 7. There is a deal to be made. [New Republic]

Five Things to Watch for in the Peace Process by Aaron David Miller: (1) Are there written terms of reference or letters of assurance? (2) Is there a negotiating text (and maps, too)? (3) Will there be U.S. bridging proposals? (4) Is Kerry bringing on a special envoy? (5) Will Obama get involved? [Foreign Policy]

‘How to Bankrupt Hamas’ by Jonathan Schanzer for Foreign Policy: “After six trips to the Middle East and tireless shuttle diplomacy, Secretary of State John Kerry somehow convinced the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel last week to agree upon “a basis” to hold peace talks. Kerry has a long road ahead if he is to bridge the gap between the two sides. He may not know it yet, but he has a secret weapon. He can help cripple Hamas. The United States has enough leverage with Turkey, Qatar, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority to bring Hamas to its knees. Why not use it?” [Foreign Policy]

GUARDIAN – Assad approached Avigdor Lieberman for favor: “A mediator – a well-known diplomatic figure – is understood to have been asked by Assad to approach the former Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, late last year with a request that Israel not stand in the way of attempts to form an Alawite state, which could have meant moving some displaced communities into the Golan Heights area. A source aware of the talks said that Lieberman had not rebuffed the approach but had first sought information on the whereabouts of a missing Israeli airman shot down over Lebanon, Ron Arad, as well as three Israeli soldiers captured in the Lebanese village of Sultan Yacoub in 1982, and the remains of Eli Cohen, an Israeli spy intelligence officer who was caught and executed in Damascus.” [The Guardian]

INSIDE LOOK at the EU DECISION by Barak Ravid: “The European Union’s decision to list Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization is the fruit of a lengthy diplomatic, legal and intelligence campaign waged jointly by Israel, Britain, the United States, the Netherlands and Canada. A cache of bombs discovered in Nazareth, a 150-page legal document, and dozens of secret visits and phone calls to various leaders were among the key factors contributing to the decision. The campaign began after the bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria, last July, which killed five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian. As intelligence indicating that Hezbollah was to blame accumulated, the Foreign Ministry decided the time was ripe for action.” [Haaretz]

Will ‘landmark’ EU decision to outlaw Hezbollah be effective? “In an email to The Jerusalem Post on Monday, Dr. Matthew Levitt, who heads the counterterrorism program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, flatly rejects the view that EU sanctions will not hurt Hezbollah. Levitt, the author of Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God, said the EU ban will be felt on other fronts. “First, it will enable EU governments to initiate preemptive intelligence investigations into activities that can be tied in any way to Hezbollah’s military wing. Germany and a handful of other European countries have already conducted such investigations, but the designation will spur others to do so.”

He added that “the ban is a strong means of communicating to Hezbollah that its current activities are beyond the pale, and that continuing them will exact a high cost. Previously, the group had been permitted to mix its political and social welfare activities with its terrorist and criminal activities, giving it an effective way to raise and launder money along with a measure of immunity for its militant activities.” Levitt added that it is unlikely significant amounts of Hezbollah’s funds will be seized as they are most likely registered under non-military names, but the ban can serve to curtail its fundraising activities as well as hinder members from traveling to Europe. [Jerusalem Post]

Rabbi Shmuley: “Samantha Power’s Greatest Challenge Will be Changing the UN” – It only took Samantha Power just a few minutes to win over her critics in the pro-Israel community and refute other challenges to her appointment as the next United States ambassador to the United Nations. By now it’s known that I have strongly supported Samantha’s nomination and that her life’s work of genocide prevention has influenced me deeply. The confirmation process, it turns out, has been the easy part. Changing an entrenched UN culture of amorality will be Samantha’s real challenge.” [Huffington Post]

VIDEO: Dr. Cheryl Saban, who was appointed by President Obama to serve as a representative to the United Nations last year, highlights just how hard that challenge will be especially as it relates to defending Israel. [Los Angeles Magazine]

‘Eying Orthodox Vote, New York Mayor Candidates Back Aid to Religious Schools’ by Josh Nathan-Kazis: “New York City’s leading Democratic mayoral candidates are pledging to back taxpayer aid to private religious schools in a bid to draw Orthodox Jewish support. Christine Quinn and Anthony Weiner, who lead in the Democratic mayoral polls, both spoke in favor of city aid to for private schools at separate campaign events in early July.

For the Orthodox community, private school education is a top political and social issue. “There are no more important things in life, to the Orthodox community, than children and Jewish education,” wroteAvi Shafran, a spokesman for the ultra-Orthodox umbrella group Agudath Israel of America, in an email. “And with much of the community under great financial pressure (both due to the costs of Jewish observance and the economy’s general state), the obtaining of legally permissible aid to Jewish schools is a top agenda item for the community.” [Forward]

ADL: Anti-Semitism down nationwide, up in NY and NJ – “The number of anti-Semitic incidents dropped 14 percent nationwide last year, though the instances of vandalism rose, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. Also, New York and New Jersey saw increases in anti-Semitic incidents, according to the audit released Monday. Nationwide, the audit counted 927 anti-Semitic incidents reported during the 2012 calendar year, a 14 percent decline from the 1,080 incidents in 2011.” [JTA/Times of Israel]

NY Daily News – “Juror’s bombshell claim: Hasidic suspects can’t get a fair trial in Brooklyn” Trial of Alexander Rogasky ends in mistrial due to lone holdout. Juror claims her fellow panelists were anti-Semitic. “They were saying he was guilty before the trial even started,” the 51-year-old woman told the News. “To them, he looked guilty even before we heard any evidence.” [New York Daily News]


DILLER’S AEREO TO EXPAND TO 12 NEW TV MARKETS: “Aereo Inc., the Barry Diller-backed service that sends broadcast TV signals online to subscribers, will announce start dates for 12 new markets in the next several weeks, Chief Executive Officer Chet Kanojia said. Aereo’s goal is to reach a quarter of the U.S. population in five to seven years, Kanojia said today at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado. The New York-based company uses tiny antennas to capture broadcast signals for its customers. Owners of broadcast networks and TV stations, including CBS Corp. and Walt Disney Co., are battling Aereo in court, saying the service steals their programming and resells it. Chase Carey, chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox Inc., has said if the courts don’t stop Aereo, Fox may become a cable channel to block the service. Kanojia said he expects the federal government would intervene in such a case.” [Businessweek]

THE BATTLE FOR JEWISH SILVER: “The battle for data whiz Nate Silver, fought secretly and aggressively by several of the nation’s top news executives for the better part of a year, was won by ESPN and ABC News (both part of The Walt Disney Company) after the 35-year-old was promised extensive air time, a role in the Oscars (airing on ABC through at least 2020), and a digital empire that may include websites devoted to weather, education, economics and other topics. When it came to money, Silver was aggressive but not greedy, according to people familiar with the negotiations. Instead, he was focused on how he could expand the franchise he had built around FiveThirtyEight (the total number of electoral votes). FiveThirtyEight.com began as a standalone blog in 2008, and became part of NYTimes.com in 2010 as part of a three-year licensing agreement that ends next month.” [Politico]

Daryl Katz to get a new arena in Edmonton: “Councillors voted to go ahead with the arena May 15 using money from Oilers owner Daryl Katz, a ticket tax, property taxes on downtown growth, new parking revenue, government help and redirected grants from Rexall Place. The scheme’s total cost will be $605 million, when an additional $125 million for land, a pedestrian corridor and Wintergarden bridge over 104th Avenue, a community rink and an LRT link is included. However, city council and Katz must still approve the scheme’s guaranteed maximum price, expected to be ready around Christmas. The arena is scheduled to be ready in time for the 2016-17 NHL season.” [Edmonton Journal]

France Said to Plan Backing Argentina in Defaulted-Debt Case: “The French government plans to support Argentina’s bid for U.S. Supreme Court review in a legal battle over its defaulted debt, according to two people familiar with the matter. Attorneys for France notified lawyers for both sides that it plans to submit a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Argentina’s June 24 request to the Supreme Court, said two people with direct knowledge of the matter. The case involves holdout creditors from the nation’s $95 billion default in 2001. The South American nation contends that a federal appeals court in New York was wrong when it ruled in October that investors in restructured Argentine debt can’t be paid unless holders of the nation’s defaulted bonds are also paid. The defaulted-bond holders are led by billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp. and its NML Capital Ltd. unit.” [Bloomberg]

Weiss Family Says It Won’t Sweeten American Greetings Offer: “American Greetings Corp. disclosed the Weiss family, which has launched a bid to take the greeting card company private for about $612 million, has no plans to further sweeten the offer. The disclosure comes days after shareholder TowerView LLC, an investment fund run by Daniel Tisch, of the billionaire Tisch family, said it was opposed to the proposed purchase price. TowerView, which has a 6.2% stake in American Greetings, has argued the company is worth more than the Weiss family’s $19-a-share offer.

The family has bumped up the price several times, with the latest increase to the offer for American Greetings coming earlier this month. But in presentation slides filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the family said the $19 offer represents a 33% premium to the 45-day average closing price of American Greetings shares before the bid was first disclosed. “While the family was willing to enhance the price in response to feedback from the special committee and shareholders, the family will not further increase its offer,” according to filing. The Weiss family argues it will be taking on risk, as paper greeting cards account for a bulk of the company’s revenue, though the overall industry has been shrinking for years. But TowerView has said shares could trade above $21 if the stock were to perform in line with the average and median of its peers.” [Wall Street Journal]

Extended Stay hotel chain to offer IPO: “Extended Stay America filed plans for an initial public offering Monday, signifying a quick turnaround for the once-distressed hotel chain, the Wall Street Journal reported. A person familiar with Extended Stay said its equity is worth between $3 billion and $4 billion. The 682-hotel chain has had several reversals of fortune as well as multiple owners in the past few years. In 2007, Blackstone Group sold the chain to David Lichtenstein’s Lightstone Group for $8 billion, but Extended Stay filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009 after buckling under heavy debts as a result of the acquisition. Blackstone Group reacquired the chain in partnership with investment firms Centerbridge Partners and Paulson & Co. in 2010 for $3.9 billion during a bankruptcy auction, and have since invested heavily in the portfolio.” [WSJ]

Harbor Group buys in West Palm Beach: “A Harbor Group International-affiliate has bought the 217-unit CityView Apartments in West Palm Beach for $12.8 million. The seller was Florida Atlantic Investments, Inc., a division of Florida Crystals. HGI plans to invest an additional $1.45 million into improvements at the property. “CityView represents a great opportunity for HGI to implement capital improvements which will add value to the property and sow the seeds for rent growth,” said Harbor Group President T. Richard Litton, Jr., in a statement. “Previous ownership had already begun an extensive capital improvement program, and along with HGI’s improvements and management efficiencies, we expect the property to perform well for our investors.” [South Florida Business Journal]

SPORTS BLINK – Ryan Braun Is Suspended for the Rest of the Season: “Ryan Braun stood on a spring training field and proclaimed he was innocent of using banned testosterone. “I would bet my life,” he said back then, “that this substance never entered my body at any point.” Seventeen months later, he accepted a 65-game suspension from baseball and admitted, “I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.” The 2011 National League MVP was suspended without pay for the rest of the season and the postseason Monday, the start of sanctions involving players reportedly tied to a Florida clinic accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs.” [Yahoo Sports]

Thats all folks, have a great Tuesday! 

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