Daily Kickoff: Dem Rep. on Bibi speech: “DC is more beautiful in April – you’ve got cherry blossoms” | Scott Walker brings attention to Lakewood, NJ

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MORE ISRAEL DRAMA ON THE HILL: “Knesset speaker, Israeli ambassador hold separate meetings on the Hill” by Edward-Isaac Dovere and Jake Sherman: “The combustible, complicated dynamics of American and Israeli politics collided Wednesday on Capitol Hill, with Democrats and Republicans holding separate meetings with Israeli representatives…

Dermer Meeting: “The tensions hit a high in the meeting between Dermer and the seven Jewish Democratic lawmakers: Reps. Jerry NadlerNita Lowey and Steve Israel of New York; Jan Schakowsky of Illinois; Sander Levin of Michigan; and Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. The hour-long confab, in Rep. Israel’s office in the Rayburn House Office Building, was contentious and spirited, several sources said. The lawmakers expressed displeasure and concern over Netanyahu’s decision to arrange the invitation with Boehner, according to a source familiar with the meeting. They said it was a step that could make support for Israel a partisan issue.” [Politico]

“If they can find ways to relieve some of the concerns over timing, it might be better,” Rep. Steve Israel(D-N.Y.), the organizer of the meeting, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “The conversation was: ‘What do we need to do in order to get back to the substance [of the U.S.-Israel relationship] so that you’re not writing about the thumb in the eye and the F-yous,’” he said. Behind the scenes, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying outfit, AIPAC, is pushing lawmakers to support the Netanyahu address, while the dovish, but less-connected, pro-Israel group J Street opposes the visit.”

—NOTABLE PARAGRAPH: “Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who often relishes opportunities to break with the White House on Israel, told Foreign Policy on Wednesday that a delay could be beneficial. “Washington is more beautiful during April — you’ve got cherry blossoms,” he said.” [ForeignPolicy]

Jeffrey Goldberg: “My prediction: Feb. 27, Bibi gets a cold. His doctor, worried about an ear infection, suggests he not go anywhere by plane.” [Twitter]

Edelstein meeting: “House Speaker John Boehner met Wednesday morning with Yuli Edelstein, the speaker of the Israeli parliament — a gathering to which the Ohio Republican invited House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), but not House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Democrats saw the non-invitation to Pelosi as a snub, but Boehner’s team vehemently denies that.​ A Republican aide says Hoyer has a long-standing relationship with Edelstein. “It seemed appropriate to have a member of the Democratic leadership, in addition to the ranking member, so we invited Rep. Hoyer,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner. “Had we been told that Rep. Pelosi wanted to attend, she certainly would have been welcome.” [Politico]

“Pelosi got her own meeting with Edelstein added to the schedule for Wednesday afternoon. She brought along Hoyer and Engel, as well as Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). Dermer, meanwhile, scheduled another rushed meeting with Engel for Thursday. Nothing that happened Wednesday seems to have calmed the revolt that has dozens of Democrats considering skipping Netanyahu’s speech.”​ [Politico]

Reid Won’t Condemn Democrats Boycotting Netanyahu Speech: “The Senate’s top Democrat on Wednesday stopped short of criticizing lawmakers in his party who are planning to boycott Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress. He just won’t be among them. “That’s a personal decision,” Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, told reporters. He will attend the speech “unless something comes up,” he said… Reid’s top lieutenant, Minority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois, said he was considering joining the boycott.” [Bloomberg]

Heard Last Night: Rep. Charles Rangel, speaking at the Washington Press Club Foundation’sCongressonal Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental: “Rangel’s remarks appeared to be more off-the-cuff, aside from a short bit in which the veteran congressman received a fictional call (on his flip-phone) from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Telling “Bibi” — who is poised to speak before a joint session of Congress next month — that he had lunch with President Obama earlier in the day, Rangel cracked, “I’m afraid your name never came up.” [TheHill]

Consuls in U.S. warn: “Israel’s friends fear Netanyahu’s speech to Congress will harm ties:“A senior Foreign Ministry official said the consuls general in San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia have sent the ministry worried cables in the past two weeks about widespread dissatisfaction regarding Netanyahu’s speech… Despite the extensive criticism, Netanyahu has no intention of backing out of the speech, he told a group of visitors to his home Tuesday.” [Haaretz] •“Malcolm Hoenlein: Danger of anti-Semitic ‘spillover‘ in US criticism of Israel” [ToI]

—Rob Eshman Op: “Liberal Democrats are the soft underbelly of American support for Israel, and John Boehner and Benjamin Netanyahu just gave them a swift kick…. The irony here is that AIPAC is widely being blamed for dissing Democrats when, in reality, according to Rosenbaum and Hochberg, AIPAC was out of this decision loop.​.. Maybe it was just a bad call — like, say, a pass in the last few seconds of a Super Bowl game when you’re less than 1 yard from the goal. It seemed like a good idea beforehand. But almost immediately, you realize what a terrible mistake you’ve made… Calling back this play will be hard now that partisan forces have lined up on both sides to defend and attack it. But that ugly thrum of partisanship, which will only grow louder as March 3 approaches, is exactly why Bibi, Boehner and Dermer need to figure out a way to keep most Americans on Israel’s side — in this conflict and the next.”[JewishJournal]

—Bernard Avishai in the New Yorker: “AIPAC itself isn’t fully responsible for its conservative tilt, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami told me. “What you have here is a group of partisan operatives, only loosely affiliated with AIPAC,” Ben-Ami said. “They are pulling threads that bind the Republicans and the Likud together.” “By simply echoing successive Likud governments that call for toughness and that engage in anti-Palestinian rhetoric,” AIPAC has ended up “in opposition to Obama and a good part of the Democratic Party, lining up with Republican policies, regardless of partisan intent.” [NewYorker]

—Thomas Friedman Op: “Even if we do use force [against Iran’s nuclear program], success is hardly assured and the blowback unpredictable. That is why it is absolutely not in Israel’s interest to give even the slightest appearance of nudging America toward such a military decision. Israel should stay a million miles away from that decision, making clear that it is entirely a U.S. matter. Because, if we do have to strike Iran, plenty of Americans will not be happy. And if it fails, or has costly consequences for us and our military, you can be sure a lot more Americans will not be happy — and some will ask, “How did we get into this mess?” One of the first things they’ll dig out will be Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. Why in the world would Israel risk putting itself in that situation?” [NYTimes]

2016 WATCH: “Chris Christie’s relationship with Sheldon Adelson” by Hunter Walker in Business Insider: “The Times noted Adelson opposed a New Jersey bill signed into law by Christie in 2013 that allowed online gambling in the state. But the state has specific laws limiting the government’s interactions with those in the casino business, and Adelson’s interests in Jersey go beyond that bill. Furthermore, Adelson has given Christie more than a free flight: The billionaire has given millions to a GOP fundraising organization headed by the governor.” [BI] • “Christie’s PAC held its first conference call Wednesday with early backers. Christie’s brother Todd and several advisers participated in the 45-minute call along with Christie donors and supporters, and fielded questions, according to participants, detailing the PAC’s plans for early staff hires from Iowa and New Hampshire.” [Bloomberg]

“Scott Walker works to harness national donor network for White House run” by Matea Gold: “In all, Walker raised nearly $83 million for his three statewide races in the past four years — an eye-popping sum for a governor of a modest-sized state in the Midwest. Of the nearly 300,000 people who gave to his campaigns, three-quarters donated $75 or less, according to people familiar with the figures… During fundraising stops last week in Indian Wells, San Francisco, Denver, Nashville andLakewood, N.J., the Wisconsin governor began cultivating new supporters at small gatherings arranged by donors who have backed his past campaigns.” [WashPost] • “Since his reelection in November, Walker has traveled to Palm Springs, San Francisco, Denver, Nashville and Lakewood, New Jersey – Gov. Chris Christie’s terrain — to schmooze with donors.” [Politico] • “Walker adds Gregg Keller and Gary Marx to campaign team [WashExam]

—“Rick Perry to name 80-plus major donors to his PAC’s advisory board” by Philip Rucker:“Among the longtime Republican donors supporting Perry are Hank Greenberg, former chief executive of AIG; Bill Fleischman, chief executive of a Los Angeles-based private equity firm; Papa Doug Manchester, a San Diego property investor and media executive; Georgette Mosbacher, a cosmetics chief executive; and Bob Murray, chief executive of Murray Energy Corp., a major coal mine operator.​” [WashPost]

PROFILE: “Sally Bradshaw, Longtime Jeb Bush Advisor, Focuses on 2016” by Jason Horowitz: “If Karl Rove was known as the charismatic George W. Bush’s brain, Ms. Bradshaw is the brainier Bush’s muscle. As Jeb Bush’s facilitator, enforcer and sounding board for 20 years, Ms. Bradshaw does the political trench work that allows her boss to keep his head in the policy clouds. Just last week, the woman Mr. Bush called his “closest adviser for the entirety of my political career” helped drive MittRomney, for whom she once worked, out of the race by poaching his former Iowa director — all part of her mission to recruit top talent, raise millions of dollars and direct the policy rollout of the quickly evolving Bush campaign.” [NYTimes] • Rising Star: “George P. Bush quickly seizes Texas’ conservative spotlight” [AP] • “The Courting of Romney’s Financial Widows” [Bloomberg] • David Frum: “Is Jeb Bush a Republican Obama?” [Atlantic]

CLINTON CAMPAIGN: “Top White House Official to Leave for Emerging Hillary Clinton Campaign: Another top aide to President Barack Obama will be leaving the White House to join Hillary Clinton ’s would-be presidential campaign, people familiar with the matter say, the latest example of the two major camps within the Democratic Party coalescing behind the former Secretary of State’s likely candidacy.​ Jennifer Palmieri will leave her job as White House communications director for a comparable role with Mrs. Clinton, these people said.” [WSJ• “Dan Pfeiffer, Longtime Obama Aide, Plans to Step Down” [NYTimes]

THE KISSINGER PRIMARY: “You’re a Republican thinking of running for president. It’s a dangerous world, and your foreign policy credentials are a little thin. Time to see Henry Kissinger. Scott Walker did it. So did Marco Rubio and Chris Christie. Rick Perry paid a visit in September… At 91 years old, the former secretary of state, national security adviser and intellectual-cum-celebrity has come to occupy a unique place in the foreign policy firmament. He has become a Yoda-like figure, bestowing credibility and a statesman’s aura to politicians of both parties, including ones who may not actually share hisworldview.”… A batch of White House visitor records released on Jan. 31 show that Kissinger visited the president in the Oval Office on Oct. 22.” [Politico]

IRAN TALKS: “Iran: The ‘Americans Are Begging Us for a Deal'” — “Mohammad Reza Naghdi, the commander of the Basij, a paramilitary group operating under the wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp, recently claimed that the “Americans are begging us for a deal on the negotiation table,” according to comments published in Persian​. Naghdi added that American officials routinely “plea” with Iran in talks and that the United States is negotiating from a position of weakness, according to his comments, which follow earlier reports claiming that Iran’s leading negotiator “frequently shouts” at U.S.officials.” [FreeBeacon] • Kerry to meet with Zarif on Saturday in Munich [Twitter] • “Iran Is Trying to Shield Assad From Chemical Weapons Condemnation” [ForeignPolicy]

—Lee Smith Op: “Iran Now Controls Four Arab Capitals, Plus Washington, D.C.” in Tablet Magazine: “That’s a lot of turmoil for America to be stirring up for its erstwhile allies, at a moment where our larger national goal is supposedly a clean exit from the region. So, why is the White House turning the Middle East upside down? Obama is willing to throw away a U.S. framework built by American statesmen, soldiers, businessmen, and educators over the last century because he sees a really big prize out there for the taking—an agreement with Iran over its nuclear weapons program that will be the linchpin of a new Middle Eastern order, in which Iran will play a major stabilizing role.” [TabletMag]

Dean Obeidallah: “I was one of the 15 ‘Muslim-American leaders’ invited to meet with President Obama on Wednesday afternoon. Here’s what it was like.” [DailyBeast]

HAPPENING TODAY: “Obama, Dalai Lama set to attend National Prayer Breakfast: President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama will both attend the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday in Washington, but it is not clear whether the two will meet. White House officials on Wednesday played down suggestions President Obama would publicly interact with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader at the event, an act sure to rile China.” [VOAAP]

HAPPENING TONIGHT: At 6:30pm, the UJA-Federation of New York will host “An Evening of Jewish Unity” with a conversation about the Jerusalem Unity Prize featuring Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Racheli Fraenkel, and Ofir Shaer. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks will be speaking as well.

SCENE TUESDAY NIGHT: “Donald Trump, Melissa Rivers accept awards at Algemeiner fundraiser: Hundreds of the Jewish community’s most influential filled the Capitale on Bowery last night in SoHo, in support of Israel and The Algemeiner Journal. The Algemeiner Jewish 100 Gala honored the top 100 people positively influencing Jewish life, and presented awards, most notably to the late Joan Rivers, whose daughter Melissa accepted on her behalf, and Donald Trump.” [Observer]

—Other honorees included Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and attorney Joe Aronow. Among those spotted by a JI reader: “Israel’s UN Amb. Ron Prosor, Ivanka Trump, Algemeiner’s David Efune and Simon Jacobson, Jewish Idea Lab’s Ari Werth, event chairs Bob and Neil Book, Ronn Torossian, and Jerusalem U’s Amy Holtz. According to our tipster, “one of the clipboard-bearing event organizers tried to corral a male guest. “Please head over to the red carpet for a photo,” she told him. “You’re wearing a striped tie and we’re looking for diversity.”  No word yet if Algemeiner met its diversity quota for the night.”

**Good Thursday 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: “Leon Black’s Apollo Makes 600% Profit on a Single Oil Bet” [Bloomberg] • “Hamptons ‘king’ Rennert to face trustee over MagCorp cash” [NYPost] • “Pulse of real estate: Richard LeFrak” [NBC News] • “Latest Selig Real Estate Fight Is Over Family Gravesite” [SeattleWeekly] • “Rapfogel cohort renegotiates plea deal” [NYPost] • “Israel’s Freightos: Transparency in box shipping pricing” [MaritimeCEO] • “Vendor sues Mets over deal to sell Kosher Italian ices” [DailyNews]

CNN Producer to Join Dan Senor’s News Venture: “Sujata Thomas — longtime producer of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” — has left to join a venture co-founded by Dan Senor. Zakaria was seen at a recent gathering for Thomas, hosted by Senor and Campbell Brown at their home, with guests Steve Rattner, Aasif Mandvi and Tim Daly. We hear Thomas will head up a news venture, launching this year, headquartered in Tel Aviv and covering inventors, investors and startups.” [NYPost]

FIRST LOOK: “How a Jewish man from the Bronx dominated the American soy sauce market” by Tanya Basu in The Atlantic: “Even though the soy-sauce packet’s origin is an unsolved mystery, the story of how it became popular is not. That’s the story of Howard Epstein, who, as the founder of the dominant soy-sauce brand Kari-Out, is seen as the ambassador of packaged American soy sauce. In 1964, Epstein founded Kari-Out, and he says he arrived to the industry right as it was becoming commercially viable. He ran his new business out of the popcorn factory he owned. At first, Epstein was regarded with suspicion, primarily because he, a Jew from the Bronx, was different from most people in the industry… Epstein’s break came in the form of affordable air travel, which went mainstream in the 1970s… Epstein found his first major foothold as the primary provider of soy sauce for these in-flight meals.” [Atlantic]

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT: Israeli Taboola gets $117M in funding to build a Google Now for content: “If you’re familiar with the name Taboola, you probably associate it with those “from the web” or “recommended for you” modules that show up on dozens of different sites, from The Atlantic to the Weather Channel — the ones that link to posts with titles like “10 Hot Celebrities With Ugly Spouses.” But Taboola wants to be much more than just a click-farm, and it announced Tuesday that it has closed a $117-million financing round it hopes will help it become a recommendation engine for all kinds of content.”[GigaomHaaretzFortune]

ISRAELEX: “Yair’s an aggressive guy,’ says US-Jewish strategist Mark Mellman” in an interview with Raphael Ahren: “Mellman, a Modern Orthodox Jew from Washington, DC, is working for Lapid again. The emergence of Kulanu — which appeals to more or less the same electorate — is just one of several elements that seem to make Yesh Atid’s life harder this time around. Many voters were indeed disappointed with the party’s performance in the Knesset, especially since it had raised the hope of “new politics.” But constant bickering within the coalition soon dominated the political headlines, not leaving much room for coverage of the party’s ostensible legislative successes.” [ToI]

LONG READ: “An Exclusive Look at Sony’s Hacking Saga: The devastating moment that Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton learned Sony had been taken hostage by vicious cyber-criminals targeting The Interview, was just the beginning of the drama. Mark Seal speaks with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldbergfor an inside account of Hollywood caught in the crosshairs.” [VanityFair]

“Who Wouldn’t Want to Marry a Jew? A tone-deaf Atlantic article from 1939 serves as a cautionary tale today” by Olga Khazan in The Atlantic: “A few months ago, for some reason, an old Atlantic story called “I Married a Jew” resurfaced and went viral, prompting much laughter and chagrin (so much so that we had to append an editors’ note calling attention to the year it was published: 1939)… What’s astonishing about this piece is how the author manages to be wrong about almost every single thing she mentions.” [TheAtlantic]

MAYOR SUMMIT: “De Blasio says Europe should follow city’s lead on protecting Jewish sites” by Erin Durkin: “We’re very proud, in particular, of the way we protect the Jewish community,” de Blasio said. “When we see an incident anywhere – Paris, Buenos Aires, Brussels – wherever we see an incident in the world – the NYPD goes on alert and reinforces Jewish community locations. That is the level of support and embrace of the community. I think that should be the model in Europe as well.”… DeBlasio met with his Jerusalem counterpart, Nir Barkat – and jokingly boasted that “my city has a larger Jewish population” than the Israeli capital. “Must be more difficult to manage 2 million Jews,” Barkat quipped – adding that the cities share many challenges, from maintaining security to “cleaning snow.”[DailyNews

DESSERT: Local — “New Kosher Dairy Restaurant in DC: Silver Crust” — “Replacing the previous kosher restaurant inside the DCJCC (Distrikt Bistro which closed last May), Silver Crust is a high-end dairy restaurant that opened last week, serving the DC Jewish community. This is welcomingnews for DC’s Jews as this fills a void in dairy cuisine, let alone being able to enjoy fresh kosher pizza.”[YTK]

—International: “Now Serving Schnitzel: Tokyo’s First Full-Service Kosher Restaurant: “Keeping kosher in Japan is challenging. Its cuisine traditionally features shellfish, pork and other non-kosher ingredients, and only a handful of international supermarkets carry kosher-certified products. With the establishment of the restaurant, kosher consumers can now select from an Israeli and Jewish-style menu.” [Chabad]

VIRAL: “‘Crazy Jewish Mom’ texts to Brooklyn daughter go viral” by Meg Wagner: “Your nagging mom has nothing on this Brooklyn woman’s crazy Jewish mom. Kate Siegel documents her helicopter mother’s advice — always look your best, get married to an Ivy-league lawyer and, above all else, have children — on her viral Instagram account, “Crazy Jewish Mom.” Siegel, a 26-year-old video producer, started posting screenshots of texts from her mom after she dramatically read some at a friend’s party, much to her audience’s delight, she told the Daily News. They were so well received on her personal Instagram, she created a whole account just for mommy’s rants.” [DailyNews]

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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