Daily Kickoff: Obama & Bibi Face the Nation | Shavit on Netanyahu & Churchill | John Oliver on Israelex ads | Gordon out, Malley in

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IRAN TALKS: “What Iran Won’t Say About the Bomb” by William J. Broad and David E. Sanger: “Iran has so far managed to evade a central question — whether it knows how to build an atom bomb… much of the public discussion has focused on curtailing Iran’s uranium plants and plutonium complex, its pathways to atomic fuel. In short, the buzz centers on brawn, not brains. But quietly, the United States and its allies are also discussing whether a final deal should compel Tehran to reveal the depth of its atomic knowledge.”

“Iran already knows how to make a rudimentary bomb. So do terrorists and college students. The real question is whether Iran can miniaturize a weapon to fit atop a missile, can make bombs more destructive than the one that turned Hiroshima into a radioactive cinder, and can use precious fuel sparingly enough to build a nuclear arsenal… Investigators at the I.A.E.A. have assembled a secret trove of reports, correspondence, viewgraphs, videos and blueprints that purport to show Iran’s skill in warhead design. The problem is that the documents, if real, would undercut Iran’s argument that its nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful.” [NYTimes] • “Report: Iran to allow inspectors access to disputed site of Marivan” [AP]

“Atomic Clocks” by Amy Davidson: “A problem with the anti-diplomacy position is the one that Dyson confronts: building a bomb has ceased to be a great puzzle; nuclear programs no longer rely on physicists disappearing mysteriously from Italian beaches. When Netanyahu said that the deal, by freeing Iran to be more “aggressive,” would “spark a nuclear arms race” in the region, he was acknowledging that there are any number of countries that, without too much difficulty, could acquire a nuclear bomb if they had the money and the political will.” [NewYorker• “Any nuclear deal with Iran is going to have this one huge inherent flaw” [BusinessInsider]

TOP TALKER: “Republicans Warn Iran — and Obama — That Deal Won’t Last” by Josh Rogin: “A group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with President Barack Obama’s administration won’t last after Obama leaves office. Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.” [BloombergViewPolitico]

—Quote from letter: “President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades.” [Letter]

“Embattled Menendez Will Fight for Iran Sanctions” by Eli Lake: “A spokesman for Sen. Menendez, Adam Sharon, told me Friday that his boss still intends to press for triggered sanctions on Iran and for Congress to have a role in reviewing any Iran deal if one is reached… For his Republican co-sponsor Sen. Mark Kirk, the timing of the leak about the Justice Department coming so close to the deadline for Iran talks is too much of a coincidence. “On the eve of a bad deal with Iran, the timing of leaks makes many worry that there’s a vendetta against Senator Menendez for his many years of good work on preventing the Ayatollahs from getting nuclear weapons,” Kirk told me.” [BloombergViewWSJ]

—”Conspiracy! Is Obama Punishing Democrats Who Won’t Roll Over for Iran?” [Gawker] • Editorial: “The Menendez Charges: The timing has produced skepticism on the right and left” [WSJ]

CALENDAR CHALLENGE: “Iran nuclear deadline likely to slip” by Michael Crowley: “A close look at the calendar shows that, agreement or not on March 24, Congress will be hard-pressed to act right away. The Senate is scheduled to begin a two week recess three days later, with a planned return date of April 13… One source close to the talks said that Menendez has privately expressed a willingness to grant the talks some extra time if Obama officials can convince him they are close to a breakthrough. “People privately worry that Menendez and other pro-Israel Democrats will decide to not stick to the March 24 deadline and instead will once again give Obama even more time,” said one senior congressional aide not authorized to speak for the record.” [Politico]

SUNDAY SHOWS: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on CBS Face The Nation: “The better deal is to increase the breakout time, to limit Iran’s infrastructure, and link the lifting of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in the future to a change in Iran’s behavior.” [CBSNews]

President Obama on Iran talks: “It’s fair to say that there’s an urgency because we’ve now been negotiating for well over a year. The good news is that during this period, Iran has abided by the terms of the agreement. We’re not losing anything through these talks. On the other hand, you get to a point in negotiations where it’s not a matter of technical issues anymore, it’s a matter of political will. If there’s no deal then we’ll walk away.” [CBSNews]

Sen. Lindsey Graham on Meet The Press: “I fear Iran more than ISIS. An Iran with a nuclear weapon is the nightmare for us, Israel and the entire region” [NBCNews• “Graham says he has never sent an email” [HuffPost]

Israeli Amb. Ron Dermer on CNN’s SOTU: “Hindsight’s always 20-20 and we regret very much that there was a perception of partisanship before the speech. It was Speaker Boehner who called me and I assumed that he was going to inform the White House. He did but only a couple hours before. I hope that now we can get beyond the protocol, the politics and talk a little bit about the substance because it’s a pretty serious issue… When Israelis and Arab are on the same page, people should pay attention. That happens about once a century.” [CNN]

ARI SHAVIT OP: “Netanyahu’s Churchill Complex: The Israeli prime minister sees himself as the world’s savior. But no one else does” in Politico Magazine: “Benjamin Netanyahu is one of the most talented men I know… Because he is very ambitious, he is not content with the formidable role of Israeli prime minister, and he has cast himself in a much more spectacular one, as savior of the West.. But Netanyahu’s personal and ideological obduracy scuttled his mission. In the end, he was unable to do what Churchill had done: win the heart of the American president.. The British prime minister gave up the jewels of the crown in order to vanquish the enemy; the Israeli prime minister was unwilling to give up anything.”

“And because Netanyahu is not blind, he cannot but see the gravity of the present situation. Deep inside, he knows he has lost his life’s battle. This is the reason that Netanyahu went to Washington last week… because he knows he will not be a Churchill-of-the-’40s (who averted catastrophe), he chooses to be a Churchill-of-the-’30s (who warned against it). Netanyahu’s target audience last week was neither the president nor Congress, but future historians. I may not have stopped the Iranian nuclear plan, thinks the somber Netanyahu, but I ensured my heroic place in history—as its prophet of doom, as its Jeremiah. As Churchill, circa 1936.” [PoliticoMag]

Well, which one is it? — “Netanyahu: Bar-Ilan 2-state speech no longer relevant in today’s reality” [Haaretz] • “Netanyahu denies Likud claim he’s backed away from two-state solution” [ToI• “Netanyahu Comments Cast Doubt on Stance Toward Palestinians” [NYTimes]

TRANSITIONS: “National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice announced that Philip Gordon, Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region will be stepping down, and will be succeeded by Rob Malley, currently NSC Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf States. Dr. Malley will assume his new position on April 6, 2015.” [WhiteHouse]

Frank Bruni Op: “Christians Loving Jews: “Christian Zionism as a sentiment is not new,” said Dan Senor. “But as a movement, it has grown exponentially in size and political sophistication over the past 15 years.”… That’s a climate and a context that are essential to understanding fully the bear hug in which Boehner wrapped Bibi. He wasn’t merely welcoming a world leader. He was doing in the arena of foreign policy what he tries and sometimes fails to do with domestic issues: keeping the base in buoyant spirits.” [NYTimes]

ISRAELEX: Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver on Israeli Campaign Ads [YouTube]

2016 WATCH: MOT Jeff Miller to now work full-time for Rick Perry’s PAC: “Perry’s senior-most adviser Jeff Miller, a California transplant and former Arnold Schwarzenegger aide, has taken a leave of absence from his consulting firm to work full-time for Perry’s political action committee, a source familiar with the move told CNN’s Peter Hamby.” [CNN]

“Scott Walker gets a crash course in foreign policy” by Philip Rucker and Robert Costa: “On a recent Monday at Washington’s Willard InterContinental hotel, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was schooled on the world by some of the GOP’s leading foreign-policy lights. In a two-hour tutorial, seated around a table in the Taft Room sipping sodas and coffee, they used detailed regional maps to lead the likely presidential candidate on a tour of the globe’s hot spots: Israel and the Middle East, Latin America, Russia and Ukraine.​.. He has trips planned to five countries this spring, including Israel.”

“I can pretty well guarantee you that he is not a subscriber to Foreign Affairs,” said Elliott Abrams, a prominent neoconservative who was among those briefing Walker at the Willard… Ken Abramowitz, a New York venture capitalist, said his advice to Walker is: “Send yourself to school so that when you’re ready to be the professor you know how to profess. Prime time is a few months away, so he better be reading till late at night.” [WashPost]

2016 ROUNDUP: “Is Martin O’Malley ‘Ready for Hillary’?” [WashPost] • “He’s not officially a candidate, but Jeb Bush looks like one in Iowa” [PoliticoWashPost] • “How Local News Covers Hillary” [NYMag] • “Emails may be a key to addressing ‘pay-to-play’ whispers at Clinton Foundation” [NationalJournal] • “Charter School in Miami Fails, but Proves Useful on Jeb Bush’s Résumé” [NYTimes• “Jeb missed chance to meet with Adelson during Las Vegas trip” [ReviewJournal]

Support for Israel likely to be a campaign issue in #MDSen race… “U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards said to be announcing Senate bid on Tuesday” by Arelis R. Hernandez: “Edwards, 56, has drawn early support from national progressive organizations, who helped her oust incumbent Albert Wynn in the 2008 Democratic primary and last week announced a movement to get her to run for Senate. But it remains to be seen whether efforts by groups such as Emily’s List and the Feminist Majority will be enough to offset an early fundraising advantage held by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a proven fundraiser who has $1.7 million in his campaign account.” [WashPost]

—How the news broke: @frankthorpNBC — “While running w/ wife at National Harbor today we stumbled upon @repdonnaedwards taping a message w/ a large production crew #MDSEN” [Twitter]

SCENE YESTERDAY: “People ask, ‘Do you feel a burden?'” Rep. Lee Zeldin said at a Valley Stream synagogue. “If being the only Jewish Republican is going to give me that opportunity to speak about a stronger, more consistent foreign policy, then I welcome that opportunity.”.. About 150 members of Temple Hillel attended the forum, “The Future of the Jewish Vote,” held in honor of the congregation’s 60th anniversary. Speakers included State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Todd Kaminsky, Phillip Goldfeder, Brian Curran, David McDonough, and Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf.” [Newsday]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — by Jared Sichel: Around 1100 folks attended the Israeli American Council’s seventh annual gala at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, where the fast-growing national group raised an announced $22 million and made public their purchase of a $10 million property in the San Fernando Valley, which will serve as an IAC community center… Haim Saban, after Miriam Adelson pledged $12 million from her and Sheldon, joked: “Sheldon is ten times richer than me…I said to Sheldon listen whatever you give I’ll give one tenth.” Spotted: Israeli Consul General David Siegel, Stanley Black, Roz and Jerry Rothstein, Adam and Gila Milstein, and Shawn Evenhaim.

HAPPENING TODAY: At 11:45am, JINSA will host a lunch at the St. Regis Hotel in DC for a discussion titled, “An Assessment of the 2014 Conflict in Gaza from U.S. Experts.” Speakers include Gen. Charles Wald, Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski, Major Gen. Rick Devereaux, Major Gen. Mike Jones, and Professor Geoffrey Corn. “In the fall of 2014, JINSA commissioned a high-level delegation of retired U.S. generals to visit Israel and conduct a balanced, independent assessment of the Israeli military’s conduct in the summer 2014 campaign in Gaza. The delegation’s landmark report will provide an expert account of Israel’s conduct and offer lessons learned for future U.S. operations against terrorist entities in urban environments.” [RSVP]

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REAL ESTATE ROUNDUP: “Blackstone eyes $1.5B deal to buy Willis Tower from Joseph Chetrit and Yisroel Gluck [FinancialTimes] • “Related splits with Nazarian on Grand Ave. Project” [DTNews] • “Alex Sapir closes on Mondrian Soho for $205M” [RealDeal] • “Brooklyn’s Industry City to Get $1B Modernization” [Bloomberg• “David Lichtenstein’s Lightstone acquires Hampton Inn at Des Moines Airport for $10.9M” [NewsWire]

STARTUP NATION: “MBA matchmakers: InsideIL connects business students with Israeli internships” by Paul Miller: “InsideIL, a non-profit organization, is the brainchild of two Harvard University-educated women… Sara Greenberg is a Philadelphia native… Della Heiman was born in Cincinnati… In 2014, both women co-founded InsideIL in order to connect their classmates and fellow alumni to Israeli companies across a variety of industries, including biotechnology, cybersecurity, venture capital, and e-commerce.” [JNS]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Top aide for disgraced Assemblyman Sheldon Silver earns more than Gov. Cuomo” [DailyNews]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “From Auschwitz to Charlie Hebdo: the perils of being Jewish in France” by Marion Van Renterghem: “This is no “sensitive area” in Ramallah, Cairo or Tehran, nor some gloomy banlieue outside Paris. We are talking to a quiet, middle-class family living in the centre of contemporary Montpellier, a lively university city and one of the economic hubs of France’s Mediterranean coast. Grandmother Rose is 82, her daughter Valérie, 52, and the two grand-daughters, Lila and Laura, 17 and 10… Three generations of women from one French Jewish family discuss antisemitism and darkening social attitudes towards their religious heritage.” [TheGuardian]

Weekend Wedding: Jane Meyerson and Jeremy Moskowitz — “The bride has a job with an education-reform group, and the groom is the chief of staff to the president of Hillel International, the Jewish student organization, in Washington.” [NYTimes]

On This Day In… 1992: “Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin died at age 78.” [AP]

That’s all folks; have a great day!

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