Daily Kickoff: Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem | Alan Gross Says Goodbye To Family | GOP Eyes Jewish Voters | Sheldon Adelson, President Obama Birthdays

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BREAKING: TRACTOR TERROR ATTACK IN JERUSALEM – 1 pedestrian killed, 6 injured, terrorist show dead: “The terrorist who killed one and injured six others in a Jerusalem terrorist attack earlier today is being identified by Palestinians on social media as Muhammed Naif El-Ja’abis from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber.” [ToI-LiveBlog] — Graphic video of the attack [YouTube]ON THIS DATE IN… (Via the AP): 2002 – “A Palestinian suicide bomber blew up a bus in northern Israel during rush hour, killing nine passengers.” [AP]

SADDEST STORY: American Jew Imprisoned In Cuba Says Goodbye To Family: “A lawyer for an American who has spent more than four years imprisoned in Cuba said Monday that his client cannot take life in prison much longer and has said his goodbyes to his wife and a daughter…. Also on Monday, Gross’ lawyer released a letter from a group of 300 rabbis to President Barack Obama urging him to take action to secure Gross’ release. Gross, who is Jewish, was working with Cuba’s small Jewish community on Internet access when he was arrested.” [AP]

FOLLOW CNN’s @JakeTapper who is reporting on the ground in Israel

SUNDAY BEST: Mike Bloomberg on CBS “Face The Nation” with Norah O’Donnell: “Can you imagine if one of the contiguous countries to America were firing rockets at America? The same people who are criticizing the Israelis would be going crazy, demanding the president does more.” —  Ambassador Ron Dermer on NBC’s “Meet The Press” with David Gregory: “The road to peace goes over Hamas, it doesn’t include Hamas.”  — Gov. Rick Perry on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Candy Crowley: “There are individuals who lose their lives.. But when you use your civilians as a shield, that speaks volumes about who you are and what you believe in.” — Rep. Mike Murphy on NBC’s “Meet The Press” with David Gregory: “John Kerry, I give him an A-plus for burning up jet fuel flying around the world.”

FRIENDLY FIRE CONTINUES: U.S. State Department condemned Israel in the strongest terms: The State Department used “language that was rare in its directness and severity,” saying it is “appalled” by the “disgraceful” shelling by Israel of a United Nations school shelter that killed 10 people in Rafah. [APQuote: ” The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.” [State Department] — White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett on CBS’ “Face the Nation”:  “This is why the cease-fire is so important. It’s a devastating situation. Israel absolutely has the right to defend itself, and we are Israel’s staunchest ally. But you also can’t condone the killing of all of these innocent children.” [Politico]
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BIBI: “DON’T SECOND GUESS ME”: “In a phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiroon Friday, Netanyahu vented his anger, according to people familiar with the call. Netanyahu told Shapiro the Obama administration was “not to ever second-guess me again” and that Washington should trust his judgment on how to deal with Hamas.. Netanyahu added that he now “expected” the U.S. and other countries to fully support Israel’s offensive in Gaza [AP] — NY Post cover: “Leave It To Bibi”[Twitter] — Bibi doesn’t deny saying it: “When asked on Saturday evening .. Netanyahu did not deny them, choosing instead to say the report didn’t reflect the general “tone and substance” of the calls. “First let me make a general statement about our relationship with the United States,” Netanyahu said in English when an American journalist asked about the report from the Associated Press’ Matt Lee. “I think the United States has been terrific.”” [CNN]

ON THE HILL: Over the weekend, both the Senate and the House approved $225M in funding for the Iron Dome. The bill passed by unanimous consent in the Senate and by a 395 to 8 vote. 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans voted against it. The four Democrats: Keith Ellison (MN-05), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Jim Moran (VA-08)and Beto O’Rourke (TX-16). The four Republicans: Justin Amash (MI-03), Walter Jones (NC-03), Tom Massie (KY-04)and Mark Sanford (SC-01). Rep. Ellison explains vote on “Meet the Press”: “Because a ceasefire is what we should prioritize now. A ceasefire protects civilians on both sides… I’ve been to Sderot, I have stuck with those people, talking about those rockets and that indiscriminate rocket fire, and I’ve also been to Gaza three times since 2009. And I can tell you, those people are absolutely devastated.. We need a ceasefire now.” [NBC]

ISRAEL VISITS ISRAEL: Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) landed Sunday for a 10-day solidarity visit to Israel, as part of a seven-member bipartisan Congressional delegation. Before he took off on Saturday, Israel told local News12 affiliate that there will be peace when Hamas decides to stop firing rockets over the border in hopes of killing Israelis, and sending terrorists through tunnels to kidnap Israelis. He said Hamas also needs to “teach their children how to put things together rather than how to blow things up.” [News12Tweet: “To those who send me angry tweets about my supporting Israel in Gaza, where’s your anguish @ deaths of 170k Syrian civilians? Why silent?” [Twitter]

LAST NIGHT: Congressman Michael Grimm attended a rally in support of Israel, organized by the Russian Jewish community in Brooklyn. “I have a simple message to you: I stand with Israel,” the State Island congressman said. “I stand as a proud American, I stand as a proud marine and soldier and I stand as a United State Congressman with all of you – with Israel.” Tells Jewish Insider: “The Obama administration does not have a Foreign Policy. Allies don’t trust us and they have no faith in us, and our enemies get emboldened and push the envelope even more.”


**Good Monday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share 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**


2015 WATCH – UK: British PM David Cameron and Opposition Leader Ed Miliband launched into a bitter public row over the situation in Gaza Saturday night. The Jewish Labour leader accused the Prime Minister of a failure of leadership on Israel’s Gaza onslaught and rebuked him for his “silence on the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians” caused by Israel’s military action. “The Prime Minister is wrong not to have opposed Israel’s incursion into Gaza. And his silence on the killing of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians caused by Israel’s military action will be inexplicable to people across Britain and internationally,” he said. A Downing Street spokesman said in response: “The PM has been clear that both sides in the Gaza conflict need to observe a ceasefire. We are shocked that Ed Miliband would seek to misrepresent that position and play politics with such a serious issue.” [TheIndependent] Miliband has intensified his criticism of David Cameron for his failure to condemn Israel’s “unacceptable and unjustifiable” killing of civilians in Gaza. [TheGuardian]TOP TWEET: NYTimes’ @HannahOlivennes: “This is what is going on in France right now… I’ve never felt so disgusted by my own country” [NYTimes]

MIDTERMS: Republicans believe that the deepening crisis in Gaza could ultimately loosen the grip that the Democratic Party has traditionally held upon American Jewish voters.. Conservatives say the overall stance of the administration has created an atmosphere of skepticism in the Democratic base toward Israel… “The bigger issue is not whether the Obama administration imposes a ceasefire on Israel or not,” said Noam Neusner, who worked for the administration of President George W. Bush as a liaison to the Jewish community. “The bigger issue is with the Democratic Party electorate, namely academic elites, African Americans and younger voters. As those blocs of voters become more skeptical of Israel’s right to defend itself — and that seems to be happening — that is going to make American Jews who are Democratic Party voters less comfortable in their own party.”

—”Tevi Troy, former White House Jewish liaison, said, “Democratic voters are much less likely to be supportive of Israel and Republicans voters are overwhelmingly supportive. That means that, if you are a Democratic politician and you are speaking to your base, the audience that you’re speaking to has a less than 50-50 shot of being pro-Israel.” But Troy also noted that expectations among conservatives that Jewish voters will align themselves with Republicans have been raised — and dashed — before. “I have been around many blocks and I’ve heard it so many times: ‘Now is the point that it’s all going to change.’ And it never happens. It’s like ‘Waiting for Godot.’” [TheHill]

POLLS: Americans’ sympathies are more likely to be with Israel than the Palestinians.  However, only 43% of the U.S. public sides with Israel, 43% are unsure, and 14% empathize with the Palestinians.  66% of Republicans align with Israel compared with 39% of independents and 35% of Democrats… There is little sympathy among Americans for Hamas.  54% of Americans side with Israel and only 7% are more sympathetic to Hamas. Yet, there is a significant partisan divide. 73% of Republicans back Israel over Hamas.  46% of Democrats sympathize with Israel, but 44% are unsure. 62% of Americans do not believe the Israelis and the Palestinians will be able to forge a lasting peace in the Middle East.  71% of Republicans, 66% of independents, and 53% of Democrats hold this view. [Marist/NBC/WSJ]

— Gallup: Religious Americans More Supportive Of Israel: 66% of Americans who attend church weekly or almost every week were sympathetic to the Israelis, compared with 13% who are sympathetic to the Palestinians. Sympathy for Israel drops to 46% among those who never attend church. Seventy-nine percent of Mormons are more sympathetic to Israelis, followed by Protestants (66%) and Catholics (59%). The lowest level of sympathy is among the “nones” — those without a formal religious identity — among whom 45% express more sympathy for Israelis and 25% for the Palestinians… Sympathy for Israelis is the highest among U.S. Jews. 93% of American Jews expressed sympathy for Israelis, while only 2% were more sympathetic to the Palestinians. [Gallup]

TOP-OPS: Michael Oren: “In Defense of Zionism” [WSJ] — Aaron David Miller on Gaza war: The terrifying truth [CNN] — “Netanyahu’s frustrations with American tactics seem pretty much on target.” [NY Daily News] — Barak Ravid: Netanyahu finally realizes: Abbas is not Hamas [Haaretz] — Roger Cohen: Why Americans See Israel the Way They Do [NY Times] — Tal Schneider: Bibi’s Public Diplomacy Chief, Opposition Leader Herzog [Plog] — Daniel Gordis: Behind all the chatter, there’s another #Israel. There’s a hurting Israel [JPost]

SPORTS BLINK: Robert Kraft Sends Heartfelt Letter To Family Of Slain IDF Soldier: “New England Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft sent a personal letter to the family of slain Israel Defense Force soldier Max Steinberg. Steinberg grew up in California and moved to Israel to serve in the army after participating in a Birthright Israel trip… The letter was accompanied by a handwritten note that said “We are all Patriots,” and “With love of our tradition and the people of Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel.)” [TR] — “Israeli’s War Against Hamas Is Justified Says Cleveland Cavaliers Coach” [Deadspin]

HOLLYWOOD: Jon Voight Slams Penelope Cruz And Javier Bardem For ‘Inciting Anti-Semitism’: The 75-year-old Oscar winner, a staunch Republican, accused the married couple of inciting anti-Semitism by signing a letter last week that criticized Israel’s military actions in Gaza as a genocide. “You should hang your heads in shame,” he wrote. [NY Daily News] Jewish Doppelganger writes an open letter to Penelope Cruz: “I am no longer your fan. Although we might look alike, you and I are nothing alike.” [Forward]

BIRTHDAYS: Sheldon Adelson turns 81… President Barack Obama turns 53… Jonathan Keyson, Executive Director of EUJS… From the weekend: Shimon Peres… Amb. Dan Shapiro…

That’s all folks, have a great Monday! 

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


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