Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: Tonight on Frontline: Bibi’s rise to power | Ari Bergmann profile: Hedge Funds’ Idea Man | Famous Dr. Zizmor retires to study Talmud

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AIRING TONIGHT — 9PM on PBS: “Netanyahu at War” — a two-hour documentary from veteran filmmaker Michael Kirk on Frontline examines Netanyahu’s rise to power and the Israeli PM’s relationship with the U.S. — features Ben Rhoades, Jeffrey Goldberg, Dore Gold, Dennis Ross, former advisor Eyal Arad, Aaron David Miller, Michael Oren, Ronen Bergman, Sandy Berger, David Axelrod, Peter Beinart, Chemi Shalev, Ari Shavit and David Remnick. [PBS] • Watch a clip [YouTube]

Preview: Almost the first words we hear are, “The PM has a messianic notion of himself.” They are spoken by former adviser Eyal Arad, who adds that his old boss believes he is “a person called to save the Jewish people.” Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit says, “He wants to be the new Churchill, to stop Iran in the way Churchill stopped the Nazis.” And this, too: “He believes he will go down in history as the person who warned us all it would come true.” [Globe&Mail]

As the nation mourned Rabin’s assassination, Netanyahu talked about the political costs of Rabin’s death. “I remember Netanyahu saying to me, ‘Look, look at this. He’s a hero now. But if he had not been assassinated, I would have beaten him in the elections and then he would have gone into history as a failed politician,’” Martin Indyk, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, says in the film. [PBS]

“In one of the more telling moments, the cameras zero in on Obama’s face as Netanyahu lectures him in the Oval Office, with aides discussing how the president was quietly fuming about the display of disrespect. Yet the documentary also offers necessary context, including how then-President Bill Clinton supported Shimon Peres in his bid to win the 1996 Israeli election against Netanyahu (which Netanyahu won by a razor-thin margin) — in much the way Netanyahu interceded in the U.S. race in 2012.”[VarietyMinnPost]

David Brooks Op-Ed — The Age of Small Terror: “On New Year’s Eve some friends and family members had a drink at a bar in Tel Aviv. The next day a gunman shot up the place, killing two people and wounding at least five. When I heard about the shooting I was horrified, of course, but there was no special emotion caused by the proximity 16 hours before… But there is something important about the accumulation of these random killing sprees — the way it affects the social psychology and the culture we all inhabit. We are living in the age of small terror.” [NYTimes]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Obama’s Middle East Balancing Act Tilts Toward Iran” by Josh Rogin and Eli Lake: “As the cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia heats up, the Barack Obama administration is trying to straddle the fence and not take sides, but its actions tell a different story — they all seem to favor Tehran… The State Department has criticized Saudi Arabia before for executions and its human rights record. But this time, its spokesman, John Kirby, undermined the Saudi claim that Iran’s government was culpable for the attacks on its embassy, noting in his opening statement that Iran appears to have arrested some of those responsible.”

“At the root of the problem for Sunni Arab states is the nuclear deal reached last summer by Iran and Western nations. When the White House sold the pact to Congress and Middle Eastern allies, its message was clear: Nothing in the deal would prevent the U.S. from sanctioning Iran for non-nuclear issues. Yet that has not been the case.” [BloombergView] • “U.S. Struggles to Explain Alliance With Saudis”[NYTimes]

Aaron David Miller quote: “The Iranians hold the Obama legacy in their hands. We are constrained and we are acquiescing to a certain degree to ensure we maintain a functional relationship with the Iranians. It is the worst position for the great power, because everyone says no to us without cost or consequence.” [BV]

OP: “The United States Shouldn’t Choose Saudi Arabia Over Iran” by Stephen Kinzer: “The Saudis have enough air power to devastate almost any country on earth. Wars are won on the ground, though, and there Saudi Arabia is pitifully weak. The Iranians are different. If they believe their faith is under threat, they will pour onto battlefields even if they have to fight with slingshots. That difference in patriotic fervor makes sense. Saudi Arabia has existed for 83 years, Iran for more than 2,500. Saudi Arabia’s decision to provoke this crisis was aimed at least in part at forcing the United States to take sides. Supporting Saudi Arabia over Iran, however, would be a way of harming our own interests.” [PoliticoMag]

Shane Harris: “Did the Saudis Start This Mideast Crisis on Purpose?” [DailyBeast]

NYTimes Editorial: “Saudi Arabia’s Barbaric Executions” [NYT]

WSJ Editorial: “Iran’s Congressional Veto” [WSJ]

Bret Stephens: “America’s Year of Living Dangerously” [WSJ]

Chemi Shalev: “American Jews Stay Silent as Israeli Democracy Withers: The existential danger facing the Middle East’s only Jewish and democratic state may not be Iran, but Israel itself.” [Haaretz]

2016 WATCH: “GOP candidates side with Saudi Arabia over Iran in dispute” Eliza Collins:“Chris Christie said he has “no sympathy for the Iranians.” Marco Rubio used the feud to reiterate his dislike for the Iran nuclear agreement. And Ben Carson said the U.S. is just creating more fear in the area.” [PoliticoJewishInsider

Rubio on the Saudis: “Of Saudi Arabia cutting diplomatic ties with Iran, amid regional anger over the Saudi regime’s execution of an Iranian cleric, Rubio told reporters after his speech that despite his not being “a big fan of the judicial system in Saudi Arabia”… “our response should be to stand with our allies.” “One of the things that’s hurt this country in the Middle East has been this president’s betrayal of our allies in favor of Iran with this deal,” he said. [TheGuardian]

Cruz vs. Rubio: “Rubio specifically mocked Cruz’s past comments that he would make sand in the Middle East “glow in the dark” from bombings. “With what? Because they certainly can’t do it with the oldest and smallest Air Force in the history of this country,” said Rubio, who has criticized Cruz’s votes against the annual defense spending bill… Alice Stewart, a newly minted Cruz spokeswoman, took aim back at Rubio. “So Rubio’s foreign policy and national security strategy is to invade Middle Eastern countries, create power vacuums for terrorist organizations, allow their people to come to America unvetted, give them legal status and citizenship, then impose a massive surveillance state to monitor the problem,” Stewart said.” [Politico]

Christie on Bloomberg’s WADR — Q: “If you were elected President, would you rip up the nuclear deal your first day in office or something else?” Christie: “I think that by the time I get to office in January, 2017, as is evidenced by the ballistic missile testing already, that the agreement will be violated multiple times, and it won’t be worth the paper it is written on anyway and we are going to have to start over.”

Trump on Saudi Arabia: “Frankly, the Saudis don’t survive without us. And the question is, at what point do we get involved, and how much will Saudi Arabia pay us to save them? Because that’s ultimately what’s going to happen,” said Trump. “I would want to help Saudi Arabia. I would want to protect Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia is going to have to help us economically. They were making – before the oil went down – a billion dollars a day.” [JewishInsider]

Twisting words? “Trump would ‘leave open possibility of spying’ on allies like Israel” [JTA]

**Good Tuesday 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**

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Meet the Forbes 2016 30 Under 30 [Forbes• “Sanders Vowing to Break Up Banks During First Year in Office” [NYTimes] • “Chetrit taps Elliman’s Roger Erickson to market condos at 550 Madison” [RealDeal] • “Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman To Be Subpoened; Sumner Redstone Reps Seek Dismissal In Health Care Lawsuit” [Deadline]

PROFILE: “Hedge Funds’ Idea Man: Ari Bergmann has been an under-the-radar consultant for some of Wall Street’s most influential investors” by Juliet Chung: “Working from a 300-square-foot trading room adorned with a flat-screen TV and four wall clocks, Ari Bergmann has acted as an under-the-radar consultant to Steven A. Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors LP, Daniel Loeb’s Third Point LLC and Richard Perry’s Perry Capital LLC, according to people familiar with the matter.”

“An Orthodox Jew who wears thick, black-rimmed glasses, Mr. Bergmann and his wife, Iona, live in Lawrence in western Long Island, removed from hedge-fund enclaves in Manhattan and Greenwich, Conn. He earned a doctorate in comparative religion at Columbia University in 2014. His most obvious indulgence is a Maserati Ghibli. He grew up in São Paulo during a time of high inflation that offered early insight into the value of money. “It’s ephemeral and it changes,” he said.” [WSJ]

STARTUP NATION: “Israeli Adtech Looks To Scale Up” by Dennis Mitzner: “Israeli startups look to America for inspiration, money and, of course, exits. But recent events indicate a change in course, at least for Israeli advertising and marketing technology companies that have quietly become global powerhouses.” [TechCrunch]

MEDIA WATCH: “Las Vegas Review-Journal staff told to ease up on coverage of new owner” by Brian Stelter: “Management brought in Dave Butler, the executive editor of the Providence Journal, to “help establish some guidelines.” According to features editor Stephanie Grimes, who live-tweeted the meeting, Butler expressed concern about the appearance that reporters are “out to get our owner.” “How often do we need to mention the owners?” he asked, before suggesting that disclosures won’t be necessary down the road because readers will already know about Adelson’s ownership.”[CNNMoney]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Dr. Zizmor, a Familiar Face in New York’s Subways, Has Retired” by Michael Grynbaum and Marc Santora: “Dr. Jonathan Zizmor, he of the famed subway skin-care advertisements, is the kind of celebrity who can make New York City feel like a small town. But like other fixtures of an older, rapidly vanishing New York, Dr. Zizmor is disappearing, too. For Zizmor devotees — who have elevated the doctor and his ambiguous smile to cultlike status — it may come as no surprise that the doctor, in retirement, is trading the subterranean for a higher calling: He plans to study the Talmud. “He enjoys Jewish scholarship tremendously,” Mrs. Zizmor said in a brief telephone call on Monday.” [NYTimes]

MAZAL TOV: “Happy New Year! Saler and Eric Axel welcomed Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano’s first baby in 2016 at 1:50 a.m. on January 1st, what a wonderful way to start off the year!” [Facebook]

BIRTHDAYS: Former Pennsylvania governor, Ed Rendell, turns 72… Baron Peter Goldsmith, former Attorney General of the U.K., turns 67..

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