Daily Kickoff: Senators vs. White House & Rand Paul on Iran Sanctions | U.S. role in Israeli elections? | 5 years ago today Alan Gross was arrested

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JAMES CARVILLE: “Nuclear deal with Iran a game-changer: I really don’t have any particular insights into whether the U.S. and Iran will make a deal on nuclear proliferation or not, but if they do, American politics will be undergoing a big change. It sort of reminds me of a line said about Mike Tyson’s boxing ability: “He hits you so hard it knocks the taste out of your mouth.” This issue is going to fundamentally change the foreign policy debate for the 2016 presidential election. I am often asked about immigration and ObamaCare, but this issue might prove to be one of the most interesting to follow in the next two years.”

“At any rate, it is pretty clear that the Israel lobby, the neocons, perhaps the Saudis, the Tea Partyers and more will be lined in vigorous opposition. And the deal will no doubt be a tough sell from the administration’s standpoint, battling opposition from its usual allies in the American Jewish community and the predictable opposition from the conservatives at the same time. But its effect on the American political debate could be enormous.” [TheHill]

White House and Top Democrat Clash Over Iran’s Nuclear Program: Sen. Robert Menendez(D., N.J.), who will become the committee’s ranking member when Republicans take over the Senate in January, said at Tuesday’s annual Wall Street Journal CEO Council meeting that sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place, and additional sanctions would induce Iran to reach an agreement. He said he would consider attaching sanctions to a pending defense authorization bill… “That would not be constructive at this point,” White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice said, adding the U.S. “is in a much better place today,” having reached interim agreements with Iran on enrichment levels, the Arak plutonium facility as well as “unprecedented” transparency into the group’s nuclear program.”[WSJForeignPolicy] • “Senate Republicans press Obama on Iran sanctions” [RPC]

RAND PAUL: “No New Sanctions” — “Sen. Rand Paul on Tuesday defended his libertarian-leaning philosophy on foreign policy and national security during a sometimes-contentious conversation with the editor of The Wall Street Journal’s hawkish editorial page… When asked about the extension of talks with Iran over its nuclear program, Paul stressed that he opposes a nuclear weapons-capable Iran and supports using all tools available to keep that from becoming a reality. But he also signaled opposition to imposing further sanctions on Iran while negotiations are ongoing. “There’s a certain bit of irony for the group that believes in virtually unlimited power for the president to conduct war, but they want to circumscribe the president’s ability to conduct diplomacy,” he said. Mr. Paul noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he thought the extension was a good thing, and that his suggestion might change some of the debate.” [PoliticoWSJ]

Rumored SecDef Nominee Ashton Carter On Iran: “If nominated and confirmed, Carter could be more consequential when it comes to Obama’s plans for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. With a new deadline for Obama’s nuclear talks with Iran coming up this summer, Carter would be a critical voice as Obama weighs a military option if he can’t strike a deal with Tehran. Carter’s record suggests that he could urge a hawkish response. Carter has supported diplomacy with Iran, and written about methods of containing a nuclear-armed Tehran. But he also authored a 2008 think tank report exploring a possible strike on Iran’s atomic infrastructure.” [Politico] • “Obama is Said to Pick Ashton Carter as Defense Secretary” [NYTimes] • Carter made his first official visit to Israel in 2013 [Defense]

REPORT: Iran Hackers Targeted Airlines, Energy Firms: “Iranian hackers have infiltrated some of the world’s top energy, transport and infrastructure companies over the past two years in a campaign that could allow them to eventually cause physical damage, according to U.S. cyber security firm Cylance. Aerospace firms, airports and airlines, universities, energy firms, hospitals, and telecommunications operators based in the United States, Israel, China, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, France, England have been hit by the campaign, the research firm said, without naming individual companies.” [ReCodeBloomberg] • Iran’s Supreme Leader Jumps on Feguson Protests to Attack US [Bloomberg] • IAEA says it needs $5.7M to monitor extended Iran atom deal [Reuters]

HOUSE UNANIMOUSLY PASSES “NO SOCIAL SECURITY FOR NAZIS ACT”: “After World War II ended, many Nazis found their way to the U.S. This much we know. Some of them were later forced out of the country once their activities during the war came under scrutiny. But they continued to receive Social Security benefits even after they left. As an Associated Press investigation found, the Justice Department used a legal loophole to persuade suspected Nazis to leave in exchange for the benefits. Millions of dollars were paid out to those who left. That loophole is now a step closer to being plugged. The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously today to block suspected Nazi war criminals from receiving Social Security benefits. The measure, introduced after the AP investigation, would end benefits for Nazi suspects who have lost their U.S. citizenship. Under the current law, such benefits only stop after a final deportation order.” [NPRTheHill]

ISRAELI ELECTIONS: Israeli Lawmakers Approve Dissolving Parliament: “Israeli lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a motion on Wednesday to dissolve the Knesset in a preliminary vote, paving the way for early elections after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to iron out differences with coalition partners. [AP] • Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni were both fired yesterday, and financial markets are reacting to the political squabbling and instability [Bloomberg] • At the end of the day, Bibi stands a very good chance of being reelected, especially following this summer’s conflict and Israel’s electorate shifting right. However, we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of an upset, says Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev. [Haaretz]

AARON DAVID MILLER: “Better Off With Bibi? Despite all the petty politics and infighting, there are still reasons we shouldn’t be so quick to assume that elections — and (possibly) a new prime minister — will solve Israel’s problems: Is There an Alternative?… Coalition Math Still Favors the Right… Where’s the Public?… Are the Big Issues Ready for Decision Points?… The U.S. Role: The United States says it doesn’t intervene in Israeli politics, just like Israel says it doesn’t intervene in America’s. But that clearly isn’t true… I can only imagine what thoughts of a new Israeli prime minister are now dancing in U.S. President Barack Obama’s and Secretary of State John Kerry’s heads. And they may well believe that an ABB theme — Anyone But Bibi — is worth pursuing. But America’s great leaders should tread very carefully here before they start interfering in Israel’s politics. They may well get a new prime minister, but it may not be the one they want. A new poll shows that Naftali Bennett is seen to be the leader of the right in Israel, not Netanyahu. Indeed, given that the right’s bench is a good deal deeper than the center’s in Israel, once the election dust settles, Benjamin Netanyahu might actually not look so bad.” [ForeignPolicy] • “Kerry: We hope Israel’s next government advances peace” [ToI]

HAPPENING TODAY: The Foreign Policy Initiative holds their 2014 Forum at the Newseum in DC. The conference is titled, “A World In Crisis: The Need for American Leadership.” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) will speak at 9am on “Stopping Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions.” At 9:30am, Sen-elect Tom Cotton (R-AR), Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), and William Kristol headline a panel on “National Security Leadership in a New Congress.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Robert Kagan discuss “Restoring American Leadership” at 11:45am. Other speakers include Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) andLousiana Governor Bobby Jindal[FPI]

At 10am, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will speak on “Smart Power: Security Through Inclusive Leadership” at [Georgetown

PAGE6: “We hear… that attorney Ben Brafman will be presented with the Israel Cancer Research Fund’s Beacon of Hope Award Wednesday at the Pierre Hotel.” [PageSix]

**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: DON’T COUNT ON A HILLARY RUN JUST YET: On CNN tonight, an anchor quipped that the only person who thinks Hillary *might* be running is Hillary herself. However, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake is not so sure — “I tend to think we always overestimate how likely candidates are to run. It’s a big decision, and lots of things need to happen to make it a “go.” Even people who really want to run often decide not to, for varying reasons… It seems like we’ve already discussed Clinton’s inevitability ad nauseam, but that inevitability really only applies to the Democratic primary. Her odds in the general election are headed toward being a 50/50 proposition — and getting worse. Although Clinton’s approval rating reached upward of 60 to 65 percent as secretary of state, her favorable rating in the days since she stepped down has steadily fallen — so much so that most recent polls show her under 50 percent (although still more positive than negative). That’s pretty middling territory.” That being said, Blake prefaces his list of 5 reasons why Hillary’s run isn’t guaranteed with the note that “I still think it’s much more likely that she will run than not.” [WashPost]

—Rubio’s 2016 Choice Rife With Complications, Uncertainty [RealClearPol]

RISING STAR: Daniel Biss of Illinois General Assembly is on Crain’s Chicago 40 Under 40 2014 list: “If it’s complicated and controversial, Sen. Daniel Biss is likely in the middle of it. As a Democratic freshman state senator from the North Shore, he jumped to co-sponsor gay marriage legislation and use his Ph.D. in math from MIT to help craft pension reform law. “Daniel is just scary-smart—I don’t know any other way to put it,” says Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, who chairs the House Pension Committee. “He’s the idea guy.”… Running unopposed for re-election this year, Biss admits to toying with the idea of seeking higher office. Says Nekritz: His future “is whatever he wants.”[Crains

—Other MOTs On Crain’s List: Keating CrownLindsay AvnerZach KaplanAlexander MeyerMarc MuinzerBrendan Sodikoff.

BUSINESS BRIEFS: “Henry Silverman Makes Bet On Sam Nazarian’s SBE Entertainment” [WSJ] • “Fall of the Bond King: How Bill Gross Lost His Empire As Pimco Cracked” [Bloomberg] • “Emanuel Stern to step down as president, chief operating officer at Hartz Mountain Industries” [NJ] • “ICA Miamiplans new building funded by Norman Braman” [LA Times] • Tisch’s Loews Hotels targets London, Paris after naming Kinsell CEO [NJ] • Adler Group sells Miami-Dade warehouses for $17.5M [SouthFLBiz] • Restoration in Store for Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace operated by Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation [NYT] • Africa Israel’s Leviev-Sofiev sues to liquidate diamond firm [TheRealDeal] • Kushner’s Thrive Capital joins funders as Stripe, an E-Commerce Start-Up, Raises $70 Million [NYT]• Bronfman Group sells off final Discount stake [Globes] • Gary Barnett’s Extell to sell Midtown assemblage for north of $80M [TheRealDeal] • Kushner group is selling AT&T Building, for sale at $315 million [Crains] • Israeli Desalitech Raises $11M in Financing Led by Spring Creek [Bloomberg]

AMERICAN ALAN GROSS COMPLETES FIFTH YEAR IN CUBAN PRISON: “U.S. foreign aid worker Alan Gross completed his fifth year in a Cuban prison on Wednesday with his wife warning he is in terrible condition, while any hopes for improving hostile U.S.-Cuban relations hinge largely on his fate. “I am afraid that we are at the end. After five years of literally wasting away, Alan is done,” his wife, Judy Gross, said in a statement that described him as gaunt, hobbling and missing five teeth.” [Reuters;SunHerald

White House press office released the following statement this morning: “Five years ago today Alan Gross was arrested for his efforts to help ordinary Cuban citizens have greater access to information through the Internet. The Administration remains focused on securing Alan’s freedom from a Cuban prison, and returning him safely to his wife and children, where he belongs. We remain deeply concerned for Alan’s health, and reiterate our call for his release. The Cuban Government’s release of Alan on humanitarian grounds would remove an impediment to more constructive relations between the United States and Cuba.”

UN resolution calls on Israel to join NPT: “The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved an Arab-backed resolution Tuesday calling on Israel to renounce possession of nuclear weapons and put its nuclear facilities under international oversight. The resolution, adopted in a 161-5 vote, noted that Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that is not party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It called on Israel to “accede to that treaty without further delay, not to develop, produce test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons, to renounce possession of nuclear weapons” and put its nuclear facilities under the safeguard of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency. The United States, Canada, Palau and Micronesia joined Israel in opposing the measure, while 18 countries abstained.” [AP]

LONGREAD: “The Great Jewish American Liberal Academic Anti-Anti-Zionist Freak-Out” by Adam Kirsch: “Many of the essays in The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel turn out to be about subjects much broader than boycotts: They are about the history of Israel, Zionism, the Jews, and, inevitably, anti-Semitism. In 2002, the President of Harvard, Larry Summers, famously warned that boycotts of Israel were anti-Semitic in effect if not in intent. In their essay, Gabriel Noah Brahm and Asaf Romirowsky reverse this formula, arguing that it is precisely the intent of BDS that is anti-Semitic, even if its effect on most adherents is not to turn them into anti-Semites. Anti-Zionism, they insist, is a form of anti-Semitism, since “when a people is denied its right to self-determination, that’s an attack upon thatpeople, as a people.” By this logic, the very same right that should guarantee the Palestinians a state in the West Bank should also guarantee the Jews a state in Israel. To fight for one and oppose the other is ipso facto hostile to Jews.” [Tablet]

VICE PROFILE: “The Trials and Tribulations of Matisyahu” – Interview by Jonathan Peltz:How has your lifestyle changed over this tumultuous period of time—a divorce, cutting the beard, etc. Are you still religious, but just less so than before? A: Time changes. My lifestyle is a lot different. I feel like the ten years of Judaism I did—[laughs] that kind of sounds like the ten years I did in penitentiary—I learned a lot about myself throughout that process. I think that all took place internally, even though I don’t externally show. I am still connected to it. Judaism is a practice. You can fall in and out of it very easily just like you can fall in or out of a diet. Ideologically I feel a lot different in terms of my relationship to the rules and all that. In terms of the practice, I move in and out of it like I do everything else.

“Q: So what do you think of that guy, Hashem (God), right now? A: I think that that freedom of choice thing he gave us is a big deal. He really put this world in our hands. That’s kind of an amazing thing to create the world. Which I still believe—that God created the world. I still have a personal relationship with and connect to God. That’s why I became religious in the first place. And I still feel like I have that. Q: Is it annoying that people kind of used you as a symbol for something because of your religious public image? A: There was definitely an upside and a downside to coming out so strong with religion. The upside is that it turned a lot of heads. I feel like it also taught me a valuable lesson. People not judging or thinking differently than the way you think—everything’s connected. It’s all perspective. The downside was on two levels. One is that the people initially feel like I gave up something. And some of them aren’t Jewish or religious or any of that and they’re just like, “Man, I miss your beard.” Because it was just a strong part of my image. I guess you just have to get behind that. Either you’re a fan of the music or you’re not.”[Vice]

That’s all folks; have a great day!
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