Daily Kickoff: Congress, Jewish Groups Ease Pressure on Obama Admin; Saban helps Hillary; Para Bellum Labs; Jewish Family Scions – Kushner & Kempner

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Scene Last Night: The Republican Jewish Coaliton and the National Jewish Democratic Council hosted Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer for a bipartisan reception. Spotted: Senators Ted Cruz, Susan Collins, Richard Blumenthal; Representatives Trent Franks, Ed Royce, Jackie Walorski, and Billy Long. According to @RJCHQ, Dermer suggested that Rep. Billy Long should conduct the AIPAC roll call at policy conference using his auctioneer skills to speed things up.

Congress Eases Standoff With White House Over Iran Sanctions: “The Obama administration appeared to be prevailing in its effort to persuade lawmakers to give U.S. diplomacy with Iran a chance, but faced continued skepticism from senators at a hearing Tuesday. The White House and lawmakers have wrestled over the issue for months. Many in Congress support new sanctions, while the administration insists such a step would disrupt high-level negotiations with Tehran. A six-month deal provides Iran with relief from international sanctions in exchange for enhanced inspections and Tehran’s agreement to halt or roll back parts of its nuclear program. [WSJ] — Top Diplomat Says Administration Doesn’t Consider Congress Warmongers [BuzzFeed]

As Kerry works on peace framework, Jewish groups keeping low profile: “As we have since the beginning of the process, we continue to support Secretary Kerry’s diplomatic efforts to achieve a secure and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” AIPAC spokesmanMarshall Wittman said. Josh Block, the president of the Israel Project, said Jewish groups throughout the process should be urging sensitivity to Israeli security needs in a tumultuous neighborhood. But he said the groups should be prepared as well for the possibility of the talks failing due to Palestinian intransigence. Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, said his group would push back against anything less than full Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. In a short radio commentary released Tuesday, the American Jewish Committee’s executive director, David Harris, applauded Kerry’s efforts. The Zionist Organization of America accused the Obama administration of turning itself into the Palestinian Authority’s “attorney and chief negotiator.” [JTA]

Zawahiri Aims at Israel: Behind Al Qaeda’s Pivot to the Levant – by Matthew Levitt in Foreign Affairs Mag: “On January 22, Israeli officials announced that, several weeks before, they had disrupted what they described as an “advanced” al Qaeda terrorist plot in Israel. Although al Qaeda–inspired jihadists had targeted Israel before (three men who had plotted an attack near Hebron were killed in a shootout with police in November), this marked the first time that senior al Qaeda senior leaders were directly involved in such plans. That might seem somewhat surprising to casual observers, given Israel’s place of pride in al Qaeda rhetoric over the years. Although the need to target Israel and Jews does feature prominently in the al Qaeda mythos, it has rarely translated into operational missions against Israel. And that is what makes this latest plot, which was traced back to al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, so significant. Indeed, it speaks to a fear among al Qaeda’s core leaders that the fight in the Levant — particularly in Syria — is passing them by.” [ForeignAffairs]

Thomas Friedman OpEd – “The Third Intifada”: “Being here (in Ramallah), it’s obvious that a Third Intifada is underway. It’s the one that Israel always feared most — not an intifada with stones or suicide bombers, but one propelled by nonviolent resistance and economic boycott. But this Third Intifada isn’t really led by Palestinians in Ramallah. It’s led by the European Union in Brussels and other opponents of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank across the globe. Regardless of origin, though, it’s becoming a real source of leverage for the Palestinians in their negotiations with Israel. To put it differently, the Third Intifada is based on a strategy of making Israelis feel strategically secure but morally insecure.” [NYTimes] — NYTimes reporters in ‘semi-open revolt’ against Andrew Rosenthal and Thomas Friedman of the NYTimes editorial board [Observer] — For some West Bank CEOs, no lost sleep over boycott threats: Amid possible EU move to label settlement products, companies operating beyond the Green Line report growth. [ToI]

Bret Stephens OpEd: “Dancing in the Nuclear Dark” – “Now the administration is pressing for an agreement with Iran based on the conceit that the intelligence community will give policy makers ample warning before the mullahs sprint for a nuclear weapon. That is not true. Iran could surprise the world with a nuclear test at least as easily as India did in 1998, when the intelligence community gave the Clinton administration zero warning that New Delhi was about to set off a bomb—and a South Asian arms race. That failure is especially notable given that India, unlike Iran, is an open society. How fitting that this is happening on the watch of Barack Obama, the man who chases the dream of a world without nuclear weapons.” [WSJ]

Forward OpEd – “AIPAC lost the battle over the new Iran sanctions bill. But that doesn’t make it weak,” writes Brent E. Sasley: “The advocacy group isn’t going anywhere. Its core priority, maintaining a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, remains popular among politicians and the public. It’s also rooted in a myriad of networks, including military cooperation, popular sympathy, academic and cultural exchanges, and more. And so long as the Arab states (including Palestine) are viewed as unstable, authoritarian and violent, there are no counterweights to the view of Israel as a reliable ally with shared values, despite growing misgivings about settlements and the occupation. It’s not clear that AIPAC could have done anything different in the face of a strong push by the Obama Administration against a new sanctions bill. It’s a truism in advocacy work that you can’t always win; but you can stay relevant. AIPAC has adapted over time, learning from its past successes and failures. Expect it to do so again. The challenge this time will be to recognize that Israel is increasingly popular on the right while less popular on the left.”[Forward]

Senate Banking Committee Aide: Nomination hearing for former Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer to become vice chairman of the Fed will likely be scheduled for the last week of the month. [Reuters]

2016 Watch: pro-Israel mega-donor Haim Saban helps Hillary Clinton get partnership with his company, Univision, to reach Hispanics: “Tuesday’s event was Clinton’s first significant appearance outside the paid-speaking circuit and into a more campaign-like environment. The agreement with Univision provides her with a bridge to the nation’s fast-growing and politically influential Hispanic community.” [WashPost

Rosner’s 2014 Jewish Congress Projection: “Since the number of Jewish House members today is at a 20 year low, another round of declines in Jewish representation might point to a trend that is not merely a coincidence – maybe potential Jewish candidates are running away from politics? Currently, though, we assume that 2014 is going to be a year in which the status quo will be maintained, and even with the expected retirements, we put our projection at 22 Jewish representatives. The chances of seeing a second Republican House member are still not great, but if Kwasman can pull it off in Arizona (toss up) and Zeldin in New York (leaning Dem) maybe Cantor will no longer be the lone Jewish wolf.” [JewishJournal]

Top Talker: GOP Named Its New Innovation Lab, Para Bellum Labs, After a Nazi Pistol: “The Republican National Committee today excitedly announced the launch of a new startup lab to bring techies and creatives together, Silicon Valley-style, to get Republicans elected. Oh, and they named it for a Nazi gun, a type of ammo, and a philosophy that puts war before peace.” [Gawker] — NJDC Condemns RNC: NJDC Executive Director Rabbi Jack Molinesaid, “Frankly, I am astounded and sorely disappointed that the Republican National Committee would put so little thought into the message of their new venture. Using the phrasing “para bellum” not only exploits horrific symbolism, but also communicates a fatalist &violent message toward any who differ with you.” [JPupdates]

Pentagon, seeking new bid on kosher field meals, says it has enough for now: “In response to complaints that the military was running low on kosher field meals, the Pentagon said it had an adequate supply until it chooses a supplier. “The Defense Department remains committed to supporting the religious meal requirements, including requirements for Kosher MREs, of our military service members,” Mark Wright, the Defense Department spokesman, wrote in an email, referring to meals ready to eat. The comment came after Agudath Israel of America had asked the Pentagon to restore kosher field meals. The Orthodox umbrella group said Monday that the Defense Logistics Agency solicited a bid in April for kosher and halal MREs but had recast the solicitation last month to include only halal, which adhere to Muslim religious precepts.” [JTA]

Foreign Funds Circle Israeli Companies Up For Sale: “Funds from the U.S., Europe and China are showing interest in dozens of Israeli companies that will be forced on to the auction block by state efforts to increase competition, a government official said. Shufersal Ltd., the country’s largest supermarket chain, and Cellcom Israel Ltd., its biggest mobile-phone provider, are among about 40 companies likely to be sold or merged, Morris Dorfman, deputy head of the National Economic Council, said in an interview. The sales are required by a law passed in December to loosen the grip conglomerates have on the economy.” [Bloomberg]

Real Deal Magazine Profile: Jared Kushner, the accidental CEO – “At age 33, real estate wunderkind Jared Kushner has reached an unexpected point in his life. The sandy-haired mogul and New York Observer publisher now presides over a New York City property portfolio that’s the envy of his peers, comprised of trophy office towers, a multi-family empire in the East Village and a waterfront site in Dumbo widely-imagined as a future technology and creative hub. “When I look at where I am today and back at the plan I had for my life growing up, I’d say that things could not have gone less according to plan,” Kushner told The Real Deal from his corner office at the crown jewel of his portfolio, 666 Fifth Avenue. “I’ve learned in life that it’s good to be comfortable with uncertainty.”

–Kushner grew up in Livingston, N.J., where his father’s largely New Jersey-centric company was based. He spent weekends and summers scoping out garden apartment communities with his dad and worked on construction sites, painting and leasing apartments for the family company. His grandfather Joseph Kushner, a Holocaust survivor, was the first in the family to enter the real estate business. Jared, not surprisingly, had a privileged upbringing, attending the Frisch School, a private Yeshiva day school in Paramus. While he was applying to colleges, his dad reportedly pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University, where Kushner eventually enrolled and graduated with honors. Kushner’s brother Joshua is now the founder of technology venture capital firm Thrive Capital, which invested in — among other companies — the wildly successful photo app Instagram and the crowdfunding website Kickstarter.

–Kushner said he never imagined himself at the helm of his family company so soon— or maybe at all. And there were many observers who raised eyebrows when the baby-faced Kushner was thrust into a leadership role at the firm when his father, Charles, the former CEO of Kushner Companies, was arrested on charges of tax evasion, illegal campaign donations and witness tampering in 2004. In personality and investment style, Kushner’s cut from a different cloth than his father, industry insiders said. While Charles can be jovial and sincere, he’s prone to outbursts of temper. Ivanhoe said it was a “personality of extremes.” Jared, on the flip side, could not be more “straight down the middle.” “I’ve never seen any kind of erratic behavior from him,” Ivanhoe said. “Everybody likes him and his lovely wife,” added Extell CEO Gary Barnett.”[RealDeal]

WSJ – A Loeb Family Scion Hopes to Bank on His Name to Expand Family Firm: “One recent morning, Jamie Kempner sent an email to 5,998 rich and powerful friends to tell them he was quitting his job on Wall Street to join the family firm. The note was more than a courtesy: Mr. Kempner also wants their business. The son of a legendary socialite and a scion of the Loeb banking family, Mr. Kempner is hoping to tap his generations-old network of contacts, many of them among New York’s most venerable names, to build a merchant bank that will invest in deals as well as give merger advice. In doing so, Mr. Kempner, a 30-year veteran of investment bank Lazard, hopes to restore the Loeb name to its former glory as one of New York’s first families of finance.

–Mr. Kempner, 56 years old, is taking over the day-to-day operations of Loeb Partners from his father Thomas Kempner, who is 86. The firm for many years mostly invested money on behalf of the extended Loeb clan, including members of the Bronfman family, who are related to the Loebs by marriage. His dad will remain chief executive of the firm. “If you name a city I could probably call a family to do me a favor,” Mr. Kempner said about his extensive network, which includes family friends, Lazard clients and classmates from his alma maters, Yale and Harvard universities. But the insularity of that world presents its own risks: a bad deal can lead to a soured relationship. Finding new opportunities in a tepid merger environment also could be challenge. “Family is not a good reason to give anybody money,” said Edgar Bronfman, the former CEO of Warner Music Group who is a second cousin of Mr. Kempner. “So it’s much more important that if that person happens to be a family member, they have intelligence, savvy, good instincts.” [WSJ]

Dessert: The 40 Signs You’re An Absolute Pro At Jewish Geography [EliteDaily]

That’s all folks, have a great Wednesday!

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