Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: GOP to make Harry Reid’s life miserable over Iran; Jewish bitcoin evangelist; Q&A with Yaakov Amidror; Kerry defends himself

Josh Rogin Scoops: GOP Will Force Reid to Save Obama’s Iran Policy—Over and Over Again: “Dozens of Republican senators joined Wednesday to demand that Harry Reid allow a floor vote on a new Iran sanctions bill. If he doesn’t, they are planning to make his life miserable. Republicans plan to respond today by using an array of floor tactics—including bringing up the bill and forcing Reid to publicly oppose it—as a means of putting public pressure on Reid and Democrats who may be on the fence.” [DailyBeast] — See the letter sent to Harry Reid [Scribd]

Kerry plays down criticism from Israeli officials, citizens: “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday brushed off Israeli criticism of his Middle East peace efforts, saying he has been “attacked” with bullets in the past and would not be intimidated by words.” [Reuters] — Watch the CNN interview [YouTube]

Orthodox Jews come to Kerry’s defense: The Rabbinical Council of America and the Orthodox Union issued a joint statement repudiating attacks by five hard-line rabbis with the Committee to Save the Land and People of Israel, citing the attacks against America’s top diplomat as “extreme and offensive.” Kerry has suffered the brunt of the criticism against U.S. efforts to reach a two-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians. [TheHill] — Families of Israeli Murder Victims Dispute Kerry Claim of No Murder: Israeli victims of terrorism lashed out at Secretary of State John Kerry for his “insensitivity” after he inaccurately claimed “not one Israeli was killed by a Palestinian from the West Bank” in a recent speech. Evyatar Borovsky was stabbed to death 10 months ago while hitchhiking in the West Bank. Four other Israelis were murdered by West Bank Palestinians in 2013.” [FreeBeacon]

Top Talker: Q&A With Yaakov Amidror, Former Head of the Israeli National Security Council: “Q: Can guarantees of the kind you are talking about be made in the absence of Israeli troops in the areas where you believe that Israeli security interests need to be assured? A: “There is no way to get there without Israeli forces along the Jordan River. There is no question about that. This is the minimum, without which there is no way to have the necessary capabilities in our hands. I want to be clear that this is also something totally different than what the late Yitzhak Rabin spoke about in 1995, when he spoke about Israeli control of the Jordan Valley, in its broader definition. Here, we are speaking about something much narrower. I am not speaking about the details, but for sure it is something that is much narrower than what was described by Mr. Rabin. We are speaking about Israeli forces along the Jordan River.

—Q: Watching the American secretary of state working hard to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians feels like a last, nostalgic reminder of the bygone Middle East of the 1990s, where America seemed to be all-powerful, and Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin finally shook hands on the White House lawn. What are some of the bigger differences that you see between the American role in the 1990s, and these current negotiations?A: I think the big difference is not in Washington. The big difference is in Jerusalem. There is a prime minister who is coming from the right-wing element in Israeli society, who has said clearly, against all odds, and over the strong objections of parts of his own constituency, that he is going for a two-state solution. Rabin didn’t say it. On the contrary, in 1995, a month before he was assassinated, he said clearly that he did not think that the future should include an independent Palestinian state. Now, you have a prime minister who has said publicly, and formally, in English and in Hebrew, “I am going for a two-state solution.” I think this is the most important difference between now and the past, provided that the Palestinians will be open to the offer, and will be courageous enough to understand that they also have to pay something.

–Q: One final question, given the advanced state of U.S. negotiations with Iran, and the open American and European intention to sign some kind of document that will not do many of the things you would want it to do. Is it your opinion that Israel made a mistake by not attacking Iranian nuclear sites when the window was open? A: Israel, and the decision-makers in Israel, are not running towards another war. Those who have lived through wars know how dangerous war might be, and that it is wise to take steps to prevent wars, to whatever extent is possible. At the same time, it is also very clear to me, that if Israeli decision-makers will come to the conclusion that tomorrow will be too late, they will consider whatever means are necessary to stop the Iranians. The window is not closed. And if there will be a need to make that decision, Israel has many capabilities – and it is not a secret that we have continually sharpened our capabilities, until today. The Air Force is exercising constantly. And if there will be a need to make that decision in the future, then we will have the capabilities to carry out our intentions.”[TabletMag]

BBC SodaStream Debate: “After the Scarlett Johansson controversy, Oxfam’s Director of Policy Ben Phillips and SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum speak separately to Newsnight about the legitimacy of West Bank settlements, and what is in the best interests of Palestinians.”Video [YouTube] — Coca-Cola to Buy 10% Stake in SodaStream Competitor, Green Mountain [Bloomberg]

Spotted across from the NYTimes HQ, a CAMERA billboard: “Would a great newspaper slant the news against Israel? The New York Times does. Misrepresenting facts, omitting key information, skewing headlines and photos. Stop the bias. Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. camera.org/nytimes.” H/T @PeterBeinart. See the Pic [Twitter]

How (Jewish) Hollywood Money Could Decide Rep. Henry Waxman’s Successor:“Henry Waxman’s exit from Congress after almost 40 years in the House throws up for grabs one of the most valuable stretches of real estate on the Democrats’ fundraising map….Its constituents include not only stars, executives and agents but also such Democratic financiers as Jeffrey Katzenberg and Haim Saban….The 33rd is one of the nation’s most heavily Jewish districts, so any Waxman wannabe likely will have to be steadfastly pro-Israel. The post won’t come cheap: Since 2000, Waxman, 74, personally has raised $6.6 million, the bulk of it from individual donors and PACs. During his last cycle, when he opposed the self-financed Bloomfield, Waxman spent $2.7 million, which translates to a heady $15.50 a vote. (House winners in 2012 spent an average of $1.5 million.) There is no bargain real estate on the Westside — not even its House seat.”[HollywoodReporter]

2016 Watch: “Key political donor and Jewish billionaire Paul Singer promised Chris Christie he would stand by a more than $1 million pledge to the governors association, even after the recent bridge lane closings scandal broke” [NYTimes]

New York Assembly Pulls Back Anti-Boycott Bill After Pushback: “Just days after the NY State Senate passed a bill that would suspend funding to educational institutions which fund groups that boycott Israel, a similar bill, brought up by Assemblyman Dov Hikind and sponsored by Speaker Silver, was pulled from consideration by the rules committee in the NY State Assembly.” [YWN]

WSJ – Charles Shrem, a Jewish Bitcoin Evangelist, Faces Hard Times: “About a dozen of Charles Shrem’s friends visited his parent’s house in Brooklyn, N.Y., for Sabbath dinner last Friday night, just days after the 24-year-old bitcoin entrepreneur was charged with money laundering and other crimes. Other pals also have stopped to see Mr. Shrem, who is being held under house arrest. One delivered a pile of T-shirts bearing his image and the words “Free Shrem.” It isn’t clear that will happen anytime soon. Federal authorities arrested Mr. Shrem on Jan. 26 in connection with an alleged drug scheme involving his bitcoin currency exchange and an online black market. No trial date has been set.

–As the founder of BitInstant, a popular website that allowed users to buy and sell bitcoin, Mr. Shrem quickly rose to the top of the bitcoin community, amassing a net worth he has valued at $6 million. Until his arrest, he also was vice chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, a trade organization that promotes the virtual currency with regulators, law enforcement and other groups. Mr. Shrem has pleaded not guilty to the charges of money laundering, operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business and failure to file a suspicious-activity report. The money-laundering charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and the other charges each carry a maximum five-year sentence. Both he and his lawyer, Marc Agnifilo of Brafman & Associates, declined to comment on the case. Mr. Shrem grew up in a Sephardic Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, N.Y. In high school, he became popular with peers and teachers for his knowledge of technology.” [WSJ]

OpEds: David Suissa: “Why I Love AIPAC” [JewishJournal] — Ed Royce: “Anti-Israel Incitement Must End” [Algemeiner] — Marco Rubio: “U.N. Overreaches, Tramples Religious Freedom” [NationalReview]

BuzzFeed: 19 People & Products You Didn’t Know Came From Israel: 1. SodaStream; 2. Waze; 3. Natalie Portman; 4. Max Brenner Chocolate Bar; 5. Viber; 6. Wix; 7. Cherry Tomatoes; 8. Rummikub; 9. Shopping(.)com; 10. USB Flash Drive; 11. Hillel Slovak; 12. Microsoft Windows XP; 13. Paranormal Activity; 14. AOL Chat; 15. Power Rangers; 16. Amazon’s Kindle; 17. Homeland; 18. Computer Printing; 19. Gene Simmons [BuzzFeed]

That’s all folks, have a great Thursday!

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