Daily Kickoff: Bibi & Kerry to meet in Rome, as U.S. pushes for peace | Gingrich: “Becoming pet candidate of billionaires is a disastrously bad idea”

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AMBASSADOR DAN SHAPIRO SPEAKING AT BAR ILAN: “Given that it is the age of Twitter, I was contemplating a speech of less than 140 characters. In fact, in light of what I know has been some angst expressed at this conference about U.S. leadership, I was thinking about just standing up here and showing off my favorite T-shirt from the tourist markets in Jerusalem. You know the one, with the F-16 that says: “Don’t Worry, America, Israel is Behind You.” Come to think of it, we should be seeing the F-35 appearing on those shirts pretty soon… And while we are realistic that negotiations will not likely resume during an Israeli election campaign, we also continue to explore the most effective way to re-establish a political horizon, without which we believe the current atmosphere could quickly deteriorate.” [Transcript] • “In final 2 years, Obama to seek Israeli-Palestinian peace” [IsraelHayom]

TOP TALKER: “Netanyahu, Kerry to meet Monday on Palestinian statehood” by Itamar Eichner: “US Secretary of State John Kerry has invited Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a meeting ahead of a UN Security Council discussion on the Palestinian-Jordanian and French proposals for declaring a Palestinian state, it was announced Wednesday. Netanyahu will depart Monday for an impromptu visit in Rome to participate in talks with Kerry. Israel vehemently opposes the proposals, and the US is working to soften the wording to avoid a veto.” [YNet]

KEY HOUSE PANELS URGE SANCTIONS ON QATAR, TURKEY OVER HAMAS: “Two key House panels are stepping up their rhetoric against Qatar and Turkey and urging that the Treasury Department take “all necessary measures” against the two countries if they continue to support Hamas. Leaders of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittees on terrorism and the Middle East, including Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla, Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Ted Poe, R-Texas and Brad Sherman, D-Calif., are gathering signatures on a letter to the Treasury’s top sanctions official praising his efforts to date but demanding his “immediate attention” to their request that more be done. The letter is expected to draw strong bipartisan support and has been in the works since the panels held a joint hearing on Hamas financing back in September.” [LetterAlMonitorFreeBeacon]

ISRAELI SOLUTION: “Rattled by wartime rockets, Israel plans alternate airport: An airport planned for Israel’s southern desert is being billed as a wartime alternative to Tel Aviv, which was briefly shunned by most foreign carriers in July because of Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza. The new airport, named after Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, is due to open in 2016 as part of an accelerated construction plan. Located 19 km (12 miles) from Eilat, Ramon is meant mainly to replace the Red Sea resort’s small municipal airport, where planes are potentially at risk from short-range rockets and missiles fired by militant groups in next-door Egypt.” [Reuters]

$1.1 Trillion Budget Released By Congress On Tuesday: “Israel would receive $3.1 billion in military aid; Egypt would receive $1.3 billion in military aid and $150 million in economic assistance.”[AP] • “Under Israel-friendly Ashton Carter, no major shift expected at Pentagon” [Haaretz] • “Ya’alon: Obama administration ‘won’t be around forever'” [YNet]

CIA REPORT: Due to use of torture in counterrorism efforts, “Intelligence Agencies Face a Credibility Test:” In its report Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee depicted a CIA that relied on inhumane treatment of prisoners in an ill-conceived effort to extract intelligence about terror plots. Agency officials misled both Congress and the White House in attempting to justify the program, the report said.” [WSJ]

“CIA cited Israeli Supreme Court rulings to justify torture, Senate report says” by Anshel Pfeffer in Haaretz: “In a draft memorandum prepared by the CIA’s Office of General Counsel, the “Israeli example” was cited as a possible justification that “torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm.” The “Israeli example” refers to the conclusions of the Landau Commission in 1987 and subsequent Supreme Court rulings that forbid Israel’s security services from using torture in interrogation of terror suspects, but allows the use of “moderate physical pressure” in cases which are classified as a “ticking bomb,” when there is an urgent need to obtain information which could prevent an imminent terror attack.”

It is important to note that the Israeli Supreme Court in a landmark 1999 decision banned many of the 1987 report’s recommendations. [Haaretz]

“Jewish U.S. lawmakers decry CIA torture practices, welcome report:” “The CIA’s actions a decade ago are a stain on our values and our history,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in floor remarks Tuesday after the release of the report on torture she had authorized. “Releasing this report is an important step to restore our values and show the world that we are in fact a just and lawful society,” she said.” [JTA]

IRAN TALKS: “UN Diplomats: Report Says Iran Buying For Reactor” by Edith M. Lederer & George Jahn: “Iran is being accused of illicitly stepping up purchases for its heavy water reactor, which if completed will produce enough plutonium for several nuclear weapons a year, U.N. diplomats said Tuesday.” [AP] • “U.S. Extends Scrutiny of Standard Chartered: Prosecutors Investigate Employees for Criminal Violations Related to Iran Sanctions”  [WSJ] • “Iran Launches ‘We Love Fighting Israel’ Campaign” [FreeBeacon] • “Twitter account linked to Iran leader hits out over US torture report” [Reuters]

HAPPENING TODAY: At 3PM, Sen. Ted Cruz will deliver the 9th Margeret Thatcher Freedom Lecture on “The Power of Friendship: Embracing Allies to Revitalize American Leadership” [Heritage]

TOP-OPS: Jonathan Spyer & Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi: “How Iraq Became a Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran” [TowerMag] • Yoni Appelbaum: “What’s Lost, and Maybe Gained, in the collapse of ‘The New Republic'” [Chronicle] • Peter Beinart: “How The New Republic stopped being a Jewish magazine” [Haaretz] • Shmuel Rosner: “Elections in Israel: Is Netanyahu All Talk?” [NYT] • Nathan Guttman: “Why Naftali Bennett Is So Unwelcome in Washington (Hint: Many Israelis Back Him)” [Forward] • Jeffrey Goldberg: “The Case for Rage and Retribution” [Atlantic] • Yardena Schwartz: “An interview with Israel’s Most Wanted Man, Rabbi Yehuda Glick” [TabletMag]

**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**

HOWARD DEAN: “I’m Ready for Hillary: Hillary Clinton is by far the most qualified person in the United States to serve as President. If she runs, I will support her. I have known Hillary for almost twenty-five years. We first met when I was the governor of Vermont and she was the First Lady, giving us the opportunity to work together in various capacities, particularly on expanding health care access. During those years, I have learned that she is one of the most conscientious and competent people I have ever met. She has an enormous capacity to analyze and solve problems. She has a work ethic that drives her to persist until the job is done and done right.” [PoliticoMag]

2016 IRONY? “Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose long-shot candidacy was kept afloat by the largesse of Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, found the idea of a candidate selected by the .01 percent “preposterous.” “If I were Mitt RomneyChris Christie and Jeb Bush, I would be really irritated by that article. The last thing they need to become is the pet candidate of billionaires.” Gingrich said, adding, “It’s a disastrously bad idea and it won’t happen.” [Bloomberg] • Gov. Scott Walker met with Adelson in Las Vegas yesterday [Fox11]

RUNNING AGAIN: “Rick Perry, hungry for redemption, says he’s a ‘substantially different’ candidate” by Phillip Rucker: “Perry also is hosting seven dinners at the mansion this month for about 600 potential campaign donors from around the country. At each dinner — funded by Texans for Rick Perry — he plays a three-minute, amped-up video promoting his economic legacy of transforming Texas into “a haven of opportunity” with “unparalleled prosperity.” Perry insists that he has not decided whether to run and said he won’t announce a decision until May or June, but he nonetheless offered a rationale for his candidacy.” [WashPost] • “Rick Santorum is running for president again—and says this time will be different” [WashPost]

WHO WANTS TO BUY A POLITICIAN? — by Binyamin Appelbaum in the NYTimes Magazine: “Dire warnings rang out that the decision would herald a new era in politics,” wrote Adam Bonica, a Stanford University political scientist, in a 2013 paper about the effects of Citizens United. “Three years on, there is little evidence that these predictions have come to pass.” Over the past year, Americans spent more on almonds than on selecting their representatives in Congress… Moreover, carefully drawn district maps limit the number of competitive House races, and control of available resources has shifted from candidates to national groups that focus on those races. Americans may be spending more on almonds than on elections, in other words, because in a growing number of races there is effectively nothing to buy.” [NYTimes]

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Israeli WeWork finalizing massive new funding round from Mort Zuckerman and others [Fortune] • “Garment Center Synagogue Moving to Chetrit Building” [Observer] • Jeff Blau’s Related raises record-setting $600M through EB-5 program [RealDeal] • William R. Salomon, 100, Who Transformed Father’s Bank, Dies [NYT]

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT: “How is Josh Kushner’s Oscar, the hipster health insurance company, performing?” by Erin Griffith: “The company started this year’s enrollment period with 17,000 members and grew to “way more than that” in the first week, he says. That represents around $85 million in annual revenue from health insurance premiums, which he says equals “a few hundred million dollars in actual health care spend.” Oscar now claims 10% market share for the health care exchange in New York, its home market. Two weeks ago, Oscar began selling in New Jersey. The company has plans to expand into California and Texas in late 2015.” [Fortune]

STARTUP NATION: “Israeli researchers find flaw in Alibaba site: Israeli cybersecurityresearchers say that personal information of millions of Alibaba users may have been exposed through flaws on the e-commerce giant’s platform. AppSec Labs said a weakness an employee discovered in the Chinese e-commerce site’s code could have allowed hackers to hijack merchant accounts. “If I want to buy a $600 phone, I can change the price to a dollar and buy it,” said AppSec founder Erez Metula said. “I can see what people have bought, I can change the shipping address so things can be sent to me instead.” Metula said one of the flaws was discovered by a 21-year-old employee, Barak Tawily. He said there was no indication that any user data was compromised.” [WashPost]

TALK OF THE TOWN: Mayor de Blasio on Incident in Crown Heights – “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Levi Rosenblatt and the entire Chabad-Lubavitch community in the aftermath of this disturbing attack. New York City stands with the Crown Heights community, and under the leadership of the New York City Police Department, we are monitoring this case very closely and conducting a thorough investigation. Commissioner Bratton has also ordered the NYPD to increase security at Jewish religious institutions across the city as a precaution while the investigation is underway. I look forward to visiting the community in the coming days to hear concerns and reassure people of the City’s commitment to all of our safety and security.” [Statement] • “No Terrorism Link Seen In Jewish Center Stabbing” [AP]

“Court to weigh challenge in suit on Israel attacks:” A Jan. 12 trial is set over litigation brought by victims of seven shootings and bombings near Jerusalem between January 2001 and February 2004. The attacks killed 33 people and wounded hundreds more, including scores of U.S. citizens. Lawyers for the PA and PLO told the 2nd Circuit earlier this month that a lower-court judge was wrong to establish jurisdiction over the lawsuit because of a 12-person office the PLO has maintained in the United States.”

“The lawyers said the PA and PLO’s home was in the West Bank and that U.S. activities are a tiny portion of their worldwide activities. The lawyers said the $1 billion sought by more than 40 plaintiffs could be automatically tripled by law to $3 billion if the PLO lost in a trial that is projected to last three months. “Given the high stakes, extraordinary burden, and substantial foreign policy consequences associated with bringing a foreign government to trial for supporting terrorism, the trial… should not go forward in the absence of general personal jurisdiction over them,” the lawyers wrote. They also said the publicity of the trial, “some of it inevitable, some of it sought by Plaintiffs, will undermine the confidence in the PA’s ability to govern and contribute to a worsening of tensions in the region at a delicate moment.”[WSJ/AP]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Joan River’s Will Leaves Money For Jewish Charities” [AP;NYPost] • “Litvak Jewish art gets first global show after almost a century” [Reuters] • “Syrian Jewish bibles could spark ownership dispute” [DeseretNews] • “Hallmark pulls gift wrap after swastika complaint” [KansasCityStar]

DESSERT: “Schmaltz Finds a New, Younger Audience” by Melissa Clark: “Schmaltz doesn’t get the respect it deserves. The butt of countless jokes about clogged arteries and an early grave, this rich, rendered, onion-scented chicken fat is synonymous with the heavy, plodding food of the shtetls. Even now, as medical science has given a nod to the moderate consumption of saturated animal fats, and the culinary elite has fallen hard for the likes of lard, tallow and duck fat, poor schmaltz remains the babushka-clad cousin not invited to the table. This is a shame, because schmaltz is one the most versatile and flavorful fats you can use. ” It is also the backbone of Central and Eastern European Jewish cooking. A Yiddish word that actually refers to rendered poultry skin of all kinds (goose, chicken or duck), schmaltz is a staple ingredient for matzo ball soup, chopped liver and latkes. And it was schmaltz, not olive oil, in which Hanukkah latkes were fried. The holiday may be known as the miracle of oil, but for many Ashkenazi Jews, the celebration was fueled by poultry fat… [NYT]

VIRAL: “Harvard Business School Professor Goes to War Over $4 Worth of Chinese Food: Ben Edelman is an associate professor at Harvard Business School, where he teaches in the Negotiation, Organizations & Markets unit. Ran Duan manages The Baldwin Bar, located inside the Woburn location of Sichuan Garden, a Chinese restaurant founded by his parents. Last week, Edelman ordered what he thought was $53.35 worth of Chinese food from Sichuan Garden’s Brookline Village location. Edelman soon came to the horrifying realization that he had been overcharged. By a total of $4. If you’ve ever wondered what happens when a Harvard Business School professor thinks a family-run Chinese restaurant screwed him out of $4, you’re about to find out.” [Boston]

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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