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Daily Kickoff: Michael Oren officially announces Knesset run | Hollywood’s Israel-Gaza mailing list | Jews & Chinese food

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THE WAR NEXT DOOR: VICE NEWS DOCUMENTARY – “al Nusra Front, an al Qaeda-affiliate, isn’t Israel’s only threat from Syria. President Bashar al-Assad’s military, in a possible effort to bait Israel into its civil war to shore up Arab sympathies, has been lobbing mortars across the border. Just a few weeks ago, the Israeli military shot down a Syrian plane flying over the Golan Heights — the first time it has done so since the 1980s. In the final part of our series, VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky gets a perspective on the looming threat of the al Nusra Front from a special unit of the IDF — Bedouin trackers who specialize in protecting the border.” [ViceNews] • “Palestinian Sniper Attack on Israeli Patrol at Gaza Border Sets Off Clash” [NYTimes]

LEAKED: “The Natalie Portman-Ryan Seacrest Gaza Strip Reply-All Chain from Hell” by Sam Biddle: “I freaking promise you that whatever debate over current events you get trapped in this holiday season will not be as bad as a reply-all chain argument about the Gaza Strip, featuring Russell Simmons, sent to Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, and Ryan Seacrest. And I can promise you that because I have seen one. Imagine being forced to listen to other people discuss the following question: “Is the Gaza War Really Over?” Now imagine those people include Def Jam founder Russell Simmons, baby-resembling GOP talking point-scribbler Frank Luntz, producer Ryan Kavanaugh, former NBC and Universal co-chair Ben Silverman, actresses Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman, at least three rabbis, and, of course Ryan Seacrest. Thanks to emails included in the recent Sony mega-dump, you don’t have to use your imagination.” [Gawker]

—The CC List: “Glenn Feig , Mark Canton , “Silverman, Ben” , Ron Rotholz , [Joel Mowbray], Amy Pascal , Jon Feltheimer , Jim Gianopulos , Ron Meyer , [David Seigal], Ryan Seacrest , Russell Simmons , Bart Rosenblatt , Jason Binn , Meir Teper , Gianni Nunnari , Jack Rapke , Roger Birnbaum , Jonathan Brandstein , Patrick Whitesell , Cassian Elwes , Beau Flynn , Geyer Kosinski , John Burnham , Solomon Courtney , Rabbi Marc Schneier , Ken Sunshine , Natalie Portman , Scarlett Johansson , [George Perez], Rabbi Steven Leder , Rabbi Marvin Hier , Elliot Brandt , Frank Luntz , David Shane , [Kobi Marom]”

SOCIAL MEDIA EXCHANGE: Mashable – “The Israeli Defense Forces just sent a really weird Hanukkah tweet” [Mashable] — @IDFSpokesperson responds “For 8 days we have lit candles with #IDF service men & women. Special tnx to @mashable for noticing. #HappyHanukkah!” [Twitter]

ISRAELI AMBASSADOR RON DERMER ON FUSION: “Israel is deeply concerned that a deal would be signed that would leave Iran effectively as a threshold nuclear power, meaning with their entire nuclear weapons making infrastructure largely intact, and remove the sanctions,” Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos on Monday. “I definitely don’t trust Iranians, I hope no one trusts the Iranians,” he said. “The Iranian regime is the foremost sponsor of terror on the entire planet. They’re a terrorist regime that has perpetrated in the last four years terror attacks on five continents and 25 different countries. So the last thing you want to do is to leave this terrorist regime anywhere else to nuclear weapons.”​

—ON ISRAELI ELECTIONS: (Part of the quoted text is not in the video so we’re not positive of the authenticity) “Dermer defended the prime minister when Ramos brought up a recent poll showing that most Israelis think the country is headed in the wrong direction. Netanyahu is gearing up for elections in March. “Well, Jorge, I don’t know in your last elections in the United States what percentage of people thought that America was headed in the wrong direction, and yet you still re-elected President Obama,” he said. “I have no doubt that when they look at all the people that stand for the leadership of the country that they will have confidence in the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu.” [Fusion/Video]

Strategist John McLaughlin Joins Bibi’s Campaign: “Republican strategist John McLaughlin will advise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign ahead of the March 17 election, Likud sources said Tuesday. McLaughlin has strategized for Netanyahu and Likud in the past. He will work together with Netanyahu’s Israeli strategist Aron Shaviv in the current race… In the past, Netanyahu worked with other strategists, including Arthur Finkelstein, who predicted incorrectly ahead of the 2013 election that the Likud Beytenu joint list will win 45 seats. Netanyahu is no longer on good terms with Finkelstein.”[JPost] • Foreign donors donate 539,000 NIS to Netanyahu’s campaign [JP]

ISRAELEX: “Likud comptroller disqualifies Benjamin Netanyahu from Likud leadership race; PM likely to appeal” by Lahav Harkov: “Shai Galili, Likud’s comptroller, disqualified Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for running for the party leadership in the December 31 primary, a move that Netanyahu disputes and is likely to appeal. Galili says that Netanyahu must answer claims that he improperly used party resources in his leadership primary run. Netanyahu’s lawyer David Shomron has said that that Galili does not have the authority to disqualify Netanyahu, only the election committee does.” [JPost] • “Lieberman: Netanyahu’s status quo approach has failed — Israel needs a peace deal” [Haaretz

Michael Oren officially joins Kahlon’s party in run for Knesset: Kulanu, a center-right party formed by political wunderkind and former Likud minister Moshe Kachlon, credited with revolutionizing Israel’s telecommunication market and lowering prices for consumers, has held intensive talks with Oren in recent days. Oren is the first of many expected to announce they are joining the party, which is currently polling at around 10 Knesset seats. Kahlon vowed he would form a party comprised not of politicians butprofessional ‘doers’.” [YNet] • “If peace talks fail: Michael Oren’s Plan B” [ToI] • @Gil_Hoffman:“Michael Oren proves he’s an Israeli politician, not an American one, by refusing to take questions or speak English at his “press conference.”… Oren: “People ask me what Zionism is. Zionism for me is a responsibility. Today I’m taking responsibility by running for Knesset.”

TOP-OP: “Why Israeli-Palestinian Peace Failed” by Roger Cohen in the New York Times: “I sat down with Tzipi Livni, Israel’s lead negotiator with the Palestinians during months of talks that collapsed last April, to get a sense of how she viewed that failure and to take Israel’s pulse in the run-up to the March election. She wanted to make one thing clear on the difference between her and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party: “Written on my wall is: Jewish Democratic State, two states for two peoples,” she said. “Written on Likud’s wall is: Jewish State, Greater Israel.” [NYTimes]

STATE VISIT: Indiana Governor Mike Pence departed this week on a nine-day trip to Israel.“The Governor’s family will travel with him to Israel to celebrate the holidays and tour various holy sites. The trip expenses of Governor Pence and First Lady Karen Pence during the cultural day site visits are being covered by Christians United for Israel. The economic development portion of the trip is being covered by the Indiana Economic Development Foundation. On Monday, December 29th, Gov. Pence will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem to discuss economic relations between Indiana and Israel, as well as Israeli Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett. He will also visit Yad Vashem and lay a wreath in a remembrance ceremony for Holocaust victims. In the evening, the Governor will attend a dinner hosted by Israeli Ambassador Alon Ushpiz.”

“On Tuesday, December 30th, the Governor will host an Invest in Indiana breakfast seminar for companies interested in locating or growing in Indiana. In the evening, the Governor will participate in a symposium hosted by Republicans Abroad in Jerusalem. On Wednesday, December 31st, the Governor will begin the day with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv for an economic briefing on the state of Israel’s economy. He will then meet with Israeli Chief Scientist Avi Hasson to discuss ways to foster innovation and entrepreneurship between Hoosier and Israeli life sciences and tech sectors.” [InsideIndianaBusiness]

TOP TALKER: “U.S. to pay $3.2 million to Alan Gross” by David Adams: “Alan Gross, the contractor freed last week after five years in a Cuban jail will receive $3.2 million from the U.S.government as part of a settlement with his employer, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on Tuesday. Gross was employed by Bethesda, Maryland-based DAI as part of a USAID-financed project in Cuba. DAI had sought $7 million for Gross, said a USAID spokesman.”[Reuters]

**Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email editor@jewishinsider.com**
2016 WATCH: “Late at night, Christie doing 2016 foreign policy homework” [AP] • “The Man Poised to Guide Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign” [Bloomberg] • “Jeb’s time warp” [Politico]

BUSINESS BRIEFS: “In Israel, Antitrust Regulator Reviews Natural Gas Development” by Stanley Reed in the New York Times: “Israel’s fledgling natural gas industry was rattled on Tuesday over a threat by the country’s antitrust regulator to break an American-Israeli group’s hold on the country’s gas resources. Israeli officials and the antitrust regulator have said that they are concerned that Noble Energy, a Houston-based oil company, and its partners, Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration, had a lock on Israeli gas production… “The entry of Delek and Noble into Leviathan has created a situation in which these groups control all the gas reserves on the coast of the state of Israel,” Israel’s antitrust commissioner, David Gilo, said in a statement. Mr. Gilo said he would hold a hearing for the companies before making a decision.” [NYTimes] • “Golan exploratory oil drilling to begin with the month: Genie Israel is chaired by Howard Jonas, and has some heavyweight investors. Former US vice president Dick CheneyMichael SteinhardtJacob Rothschild, and Rupert Murdoch are all reportedly connected to the company. It also has connections within the Israeli political establishment: The chairman of Genie Israel is Effie Eitam, a former member of Knesset who also served as the minister of national infrastructures in 2002-2003.” [ToI] • “Entrepreneur Fills in Gaps in Gaza Electricity Supplies” [WSJ]

ROUNDUP: “Israel’s Bank Leumi to Pay $400 Million to Settle Tax-Evasion Allegations in U.S.” [WSJCNN] • “Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz loses damage suit against British NGO” [Reuters] • “Sheldon Adelson’s No. 2 Michael Leven Steps Out of Shadows” [Forward] • “Aby Rosen puts 757 Third Ave. on the block” [RealDeal] • “Lichtenstein’s Lightstone buys two Philly airport hotels from Starwood” [Philly] • “Ashkenazy snags Fifth Ave. retail condo in Harlem” [RealDeal] • LONGREAD: “Marc Benioff’s Philanthropic Mission: San Francisco” [Businessweek]

STARTUP NATION: “In Israel, Startups Race Toward Exit” by Amir Mizroch: “Israeli startups beat their counterparts in Europe when it comes to speed at which they get acquired, according to data byDow Jones VentureSource. The analysis showed that at the close of the third quarter of 2014, the eight Israeli venture-backed companies acquired in the period took 3.95 years from first round of funding toacquisition. The median amount of equity they raised was $5.5 million. The median acquisition amount was $34.10 million—a 6.2 times return on investment. The pace has been controversial in Israel, where critics have said entrepreneurs are too quick to sell out—often to foreigners–opting not to build their business to its potential. But some Israeli tech observers say its part of the Israeli startup culture—to quickly move from idea to idea.” [WSJ] • “How a spreadsheet mapped the entire Israeli startup scene” [Tech.eu]

SPORTS BLINK: “Israeli tackle football: A journey from dream to reality” by Henry Rosenbloom: “By definition, American Football is, well, American. Yet, that fact has not stopped football of the tackle variety from reaching the sunny shores of Israel. Far from the East coast of the United States, the sport seems to be settling into its new home, almost 6,000 miles away from its American birthplace. Still in its infancy, the Israeli Football League – only six years old – is gaining some traction within the country, and is well on its way to a measure of relevancy within the Israeli athletics scene… With support from the Wilf family, owners of the Minnesota Vikings, as well as hedge fund billionaire, Henry Swieca, and most important, the Kraft family, owners of the New England Patriots, the league has found its trio of hotshot financiers to make many of its goals reality.” [JPost]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Why Do American Jews Eat Chinese Food on Christmas?” by Adam Chandler in the Atlantic: “If there’s a single identifiable moment when Jewish Christmas—the annual American tradition where Jews overindulge on Chinese food on December 25—transitioned from kitsch into codified custom, it was during Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s 2010 confirmation hearing. During an otherwise tense series of exchanges, Senator Lindsey Graham paused to ask Kagan where she had spent the previous Christmas. To great laughter, she replied:  “You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.” Never willing to let a moment pass without remark, Senator Chuck Schumer jumped in to explain, “If I might, no other restaurants are open.”… But Schumer’s declaration that Jews and Chinese food are as much a match of necessity as sweet and sour are, is only half the wonton. The circumstances that birthed Jewish Christmas are also deeply historical, sociological, and religious.” [TheAtlantic] • “Google offers proof: People really do love to eat Chinese food on Christmas” [WashPost]

TOP TWEET: @Yair_Rosenberg – “I can’t wait for Christmas. It’s the only time of year we Jews can openly scheme on Twitter about world domination w/o gentiles noticing” [Twitter]  

Matzo Ball: “Jewish singles event MatzoBall has resulted in 20 marriages” by Doree Lewak:“For wandering Jews left out in the cold on Christmas Eve, attending the MatzoBall is a rite of passage. More than 50,000 people have attended the annual Jewish singles event throughout its 26-year history — resulting in 20 marriages and spinoffs in cities around the country.” [NYPost]

That’s all folks; have a great day!

**Have a tip, suggestion, or even an op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Email  editor@jewishinsider.com**

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