Daily Kickoff: Bibi declines Dems’ invite; Arab ambassadors decline Bibi’s invite | Emanuel runoff | De Blasio cuts circumcision deal | Reznik profile

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TOP TALKER: National Security Advisor Susan Rice on Charlie Rose last night — “The relationship between Israel and the United States has always been bipartisan. We have been fortunate that the politics have not been injected into this relationship. What has happened over the last several weeks by virtue of the invitation that was issued by the speaker and the acceptance of it by Prime Minister Netanyahu two weeks before his elections is that on both sides there has now been injected a degree of partisanship. Which is not only unfortunate, I think it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship. It has always been bipartisan, we need to keep it that way, we want it that way. Israel wants it that way and the American people want it that way. When it becomes injected with politics that’s a problem. The point is we want the relationship to be unquestionably strong regardless of political seasons in either country and which party may be in charge in either country. We work very hard to have that and we will work very hard to maintain that.” [YouTube]

IRAN TALKS: “Speaking at a congressional hearing on the US State Department budget Tuesday, John Kerry said in apparent answer to Netanyahu’s recent warnings about the emerging deal, “I can’t state this more firmly, the policy is Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. Anyone running around right now, jumping to say we don’t like the deal, or this or that, doesn’t know what the deal is. There is no deal yet.” [JPostNYTimes] • “Exile group accuses Iran of secret nuclear weapons research” [WashPost] • “US experts converge on breakout formula for Iran talks” [AlMonitor]

DRIVING THE DAY: “Kerry braces for day 2 of quizzing on Capitol Hill” [AP] • At 10am, Kerry testifies on the budget before the House Foreign Affairs Committee… At 2pm, Kerry testifies on the budget before the House Appropriations Committee on Foreign Operations [StateSchedule]

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on AIPAC: “Obviously we’ve received an invitation from AIPAC and we’ll get back to them. Once we’ve made a decision, we will get back to AIPAC about who the speakers will be and we’ll be in a position to talk about it publicly here.”

Shai Franklin Op: “Obama should send high-level rep to AIPAC conference” — “Snubbing AIPAC will help lock in the caricature of a president who dislikes Israel and disrespects the pro-Israel community. By contrast, sending a high-level representative would reflect the reality of strong relations, especially at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been the one angering and undermining many in the pro-Israel community, AIPAC included… To be effective politically and diplomatically, the administration needs to demonstrate that differences with a specific Israeli government don’t mean that Barack Obama and other Democrats have given up on Israel.” [JTA]

ADL Urges Bipartisan Support for Israeli Prime Minister’s Upcoming Address to Congress:Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, who plans to attend the prime minister’s speeches to both AIPAC and to members of Congress, said: While the original decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu to accept the invitation to address Congress without consulting the Democratic leadership was, in our view, ill-advised, now that it is happening, the speech deserves support from both sides of the aisle. This is a time for Members to transcend the political controversy and come together to underscore the broad support for Israel’s security and understanding of its unique concerns about the threat of a nuclear Iran.”[ADL]

—Statement by Congressman Steve Cohen on His Decision Not to Attend PM Netanyahu’s Address to Congress [PressRelease]

Netanyahu’s letter back to Senators Durbin and Feinstein: “Thank you for your letter. I agree with you wholeheartedly that the strong ties between America and Israel have been built on a solid foundation of bipartisan support. I also fully understand the importance of bipartisan support for ensuring that our alliance remains strong in the future. I regret that the invitation to address the special joint session of Congress has been perceived by some to be political or partisan. I can assure you that my sole intention in accepting it was to voice Israel’s grave concerns about a potential nuclear agreement with Iran that could threaten the survival of my country.

“I deeply appreciate the opportunity to speak to you and your colleagues from both sides of the aisle and from both chambers in my upcoming speech to Congress. I see it as an opportunity to speak to the representatives of the American people, not the representatives of any particular political party. Though I greatly appreciate your kind invitation to meet with Democratic Senators, I believe that doing so at this time could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit. I would, of course, be glad to address a bipartisan forum of Senators behind closed doors on a future visit, as I have been privileged to do many times in the past. I hope to see you on March 3rd and to welcome you again soon to Jerusalem. Sincerely, Benjamin Netanyahu”

Jeffrey Goldberg: “Someone please explain Netanyahu’s behavior to me. I don’t understand his decision to reject a meeting with Democratic senators. One thing I do know is that Ron Dermer is in Jerusalem now, by Bibi’s side — so decision to reject Dem meeting was made with his input” [Twitter]

—Question is how many more Dems would skip the joint-session speech if they could attend a private meeting instead? Also would Bibi, by attending a Dem-only meeting, be admitting the partisan invite was a mistake? [@mkoplow]

“Netanyahu Invites Arab Diplomats to His Big Speech—and Gets Rejected” by Jeffrey Goldberg: “Netanyahu’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, has tried, without success, to recruit Arab ambassadors to come to his boss’s speech, e-mailing them personally to plead for their attendance. Dermer, who is not a trained diplomat, is the man who helped engineer the invitation to Netanyahu to speak to Congress in opposition to President Obama’s (so far theoretical) Iran nuclear deal.”

“The Netanyahu camp is worried about the political impact of  its preemptive strike on Capitol Hill, I’m told. Netanyahu understands that he will be burning his remaining bridges to the White House by going up to the Hill next week. Israelis close to Netanyahu have been warning him that his decision to openly align with the Republican Party against a Democratic president is both unprecedented and deeply risky. In fact, Netanyahu’s own national security advisor, Yossi Cohen, told at least two people during his visit to Washington last week that he wished the speech were not taking place.” [Atlantic] • “Netanyahu’s office denies top aide Yossi Cohen opposed to Congress speech” [Haaretz] • “Naftali Bennett to Join Netanyahu on U.S. trip” [JP]

#BibiSpeaks4Me rally planned for day of Netanyahu: “The rally, which is bring promoted under the hashtag #BibiSpeaks4Me and will take place at 9 a.m. at U.S. Capitol West on the day of the speech, has an estimated 1,000 confirmed attendees so far, Israel’s Voice President Michael Mendelson said.” [JNS]

TOP-OP: “Israel and Zionism Through the Prisms of Rabin and Netanyahu” by Ron Kampeas: “Yitzhak Rabin made his most important pleading in 1992 to the Israeli parliament: “Israel is no longer a people that dwells alone,” he said in his inaugural speech to the Knesset in his second term as prime minister. Benjamin Netanyahu says his most important pleading will be to the American parliament, and when he addresses Congress on March 3, his message will be as clear as Rabin’s was, if also its polar opposite in tone: Israel faces extinction. The differences in style, in outlook, indeed, in Zionisms, are well known… Telling is how Rabin and Netanyahu in each instance sidelined the most influential Diaspora Jewish community, but in starkly different ways.” [TPM

Michael Oren Op: “Israelis, Palestinians and the ‘Two-State Situation'” in the Wall Street Journal: “By insisting on concessions that neither side can reasonably make, the peace process has not only failed but brought us further from peace. The time has come for a new approach. Instead of Western-style talks and treaties, we must adopt a Middle Eastern approach of informal understandings. Instead of demanding what each side cannot do, we must ask what each side can. The two-state solution may remain the ultimate goal, but in the interim we can strengthen what already exists: the two-state situation.” [WSJ]

HAPPENING TODAY: Jewish Disability Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill from 8:30am to 5pm… “organizations participating in the Jewish Disability Network, which is chaired by The Jewish Federations of North America and the Religious Action Center, Jewish Disability Advocacy Day is generously cosponsored by: Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies, HIAS, Hillel International, International Association of Jewish Vocational Services, JCC Association, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Keshet, National Council of Jewish Women, Orthodox Union, and the Rabbinical Assembly.” • William Daroff & Lynne Landsberg Op: “Speak out to make U.S. more inclusive for disabled” [JTA

—At 5PM, the AJC, the Cyprus Federation of America, and the Hellenic American Leadership Council will hold a reception, in the Rayburn HOB, honoring the two-year anniversary of the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance. Caucus co-chairs include Rep. Gus Bilirakis and Rep. Ted Deutch.

2016 WATCH: “Hillary Rodham Clinton Talks NSA, Presidential Aspirations With Kara Swisher” [Re/Code• “New Clinton Foundation flap for Bill, Hillary” [Politico] • “Jeb Bush to Invite Top Donors to Meet Likely Campaign Team” [WSJ• “Bullish on Rubio, Spencer Zwick Sees Clinton Raising $17 Billion for 2016” [Bloomberg]

CHICAGO: “Mayor Emanuel heads to runoff against Garcia” by Bill Ruthhart and Rick Pearson: “Rahm Emanuel failed to win a second term Tuesday, suffering a national political embarrassment as little-known, lesser-funded challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia forced the mayor into the uncharted waters of an April runoff election. It’s the first time Chicago has had a runoff campaign for mayor, which is what happens when none of the candidates eclipses the 50 percent benchmark in round one.” [ChicagoTribunePolitico]

**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**

BUSINESS BRIEFS: “Russian Billionaire Abramovich Feels the Pinch of Commercial Property Slump” [Bloomberg] • “Juniper Networks Adds Two Directors in Agreement With Paul Singer’s Ellliot” [Re/Code] • “Lawyer to jury: Ignore Ira Rennert’s $500M mansion” [Crains] • “Suit claims Sam Nazarian owes fees for storage of Ferrari” [LATimes] • “Florida Developer Russell Galbut Lands Downtown L.A. Site” [LABizJournal] • Jewish real estate investors continue to bet on the future of Gowanus [BrooklynEagle] • “Sheldon Silver pleads not guilty as lawyer blames Bharara” [CapitalNYWSJ]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “De Blasio Cuts Deal on Controversial Circumcision Ritual” by Will Bredderman: “Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced a new city policy on the ultra-Orthodox Jewish practice of metzitzah b’peh, a ritual the Bloomberg administration regulated because it can potentially transmit the herpes virus to the infant. Mr. de Blasio said he reached the new arrangement after long negotiations with rabbinical leaders. Under the new policy, the city will engage local health care providers to educate the religious Jewish community about the risk of a cold sore, caused by the herpes simplex one virus, causing a herpes infection of the child’s genitals. In return, Jewish leaders committed to helping the city identify the rabbi who performed the metzitzah b’peh on any baby diagnosed with HSV1, and permanently remove him as a “mohel”—one religiously certified to circumcise—if genetic testing proves he is responsible for the infection.” [ObserverNYTimes]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Anti-Immigrant Le Pen Finds Rising Jewish Support in France” [Bloomberg]

CAMPUS BEAT: “UCLA judicial board candidate questioned for Jewish background” by Jared Sichel: “At a Feb. 10 hearing of UCLA’s student government, four of nine representatives raised concerns that the Jewish background of Judicial Board candidate Rachel Beyda could present a conflict of interest and make her unfit to serve impartially as a judge in the student government’s judicial branch.” [JewishJournalDailyBruin] • “National Demographic Survey of American Jewish College Students 2014: Anti-Semitism Report” [Trincoll]

LongRead: “How A Synagogue Survives A Scandal” by Batya Ungar-Sargon [DailyBeast]

DESSERT: “Alex Reznik Gets Back to His Roots With a New Kosher Restaurant” by Kylie Jane Wakefield: “Today, kosher food is Reznik’s main focus. He runs Ditmas, a kosher restaurant in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles. And in less than six weeks, he plans to open up a second kosher eatery: Bedford Kitchen, in Flushing, Queens… Rob Eshman, editor in chief of The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles and writer of its Foodaism blog, said that Ditmas stands out among kosher restaurants in Los Angeles. “Reznik cares about using good ingredients,” he told me. “He’s not consciously trying to do anything fancy. It’s casual. He goes beyond obviously the kosher traditional food and the standard in kosher restaurants, which has become steak and sushi. He’s trying to do something that’ll give people who keep kosher a real L.A. dining experience.” [TabletMag]

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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