Daily Kickoff: Exclusive – Ted Cruz fundraiser in NYC tonight after presidential campaign launch | Amb. Shapiro’s favorite Ben & Jerry’s Pesach flavor

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DRIVING THE DAY: “Ted Cruz to announce presidential bid today” by Theodore Schleifer:“Cruz will launch a presidential bid outright rather than form an exploratory committee, said senior advisers with direct knowledge of his plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made yet. They say he is done exploring and is now ready to become the first Republican presidential candidate. The senator is scheduled to speak Monday at a convocation ceremony at Liberty University in Virginia, where he is expected to declare his campaign for the presidency.” [Chronicle] • “Why Cruz is Announcing in Virginia and Two Weeks Before Rand Paul” [Bloomberg]

JEWISH INSIDER SCOOP: Following his speech at Liberty University in Virginia today, Ted Cruz will travel to the Upper West Side of Manhattan for a ‘mega-fundraiser’ tonight featuring several prominent Jewish supporters including… Weil Gotshal partner and top Romney 2012 bundler Phil Rosen, Andrew Herenstein, Mark Gerson, Nick Muzin, Raanan Agus, Rob Goldbaum, Drew Scoff, Shimon Rapps, Joe Davidson, and Trudy and Stanley Stern… On Wednesday, there will be a “Young Professionals for Cruz” event from 5:30 – 7:30PM at The Campbell Apartment on Vanderbilt Avenue near Grand Central Terminal in NYC. [JewishInsider]

TOP TALKER: HuffPost’s Sam Stein interviews President Obama: Stein: Is there any reason at this point to believe that [Netanyahu] is serious about a Palestinian state? Obama: “Well, we take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership, and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.”

Stein: And what was your reaction to his warning on Election Day about Arab voters heading to the polls “in droves”? Obama: “We indicated that that kind of rhetoric was contrary to what is the best of Israel’s traditions. That although Israel was founded based on the historic Jewish homeland and the need to have a Jewish homeland, Israeli democracy has been premised on everybody in the country being treated equally and fairly.”

Stein: What impact do you think the Israeli elections are going to have on your ability to sell any Iranian nuclear agreement to both the American public and this Congress? Obama: “I don’t think it will have a significant impact. Obviously there’s significant skepticism in Israel generally about Iran. And understandably. Iran has made vile comments, anti-Semitic comments, comments about the destruction of Israel. It is precisely for that reason that even before I became president, I said Iran could not have a nuclear weapon.” [HuffPost]

SUNDAY SHOWS — Ron Dermer on Meet The Press: Chuck Todd: “So the president is wrong that he takes the prime minister at his word at what he said before the election?” Dermer: He didn’t say what the president and others seem to suggest that he’s saying… He said, “I’m the prime minister of Israel. I’m responsible for the security of the country. Right now, if we establish a Palestinian state on the West Bank on Judea-Samaria, we are going to see another armed terror base used to launch attacks against Israel.”

Todd: “Do you believe an imposed framework of a two-state solution is an anti-Israel resolution?” Dermer: “A United Nations resolution will.. harden Palestinian positions. And it will prevent us not only from having peace today, it could prevent peace for decades to come. Because no Palestinian leader will move from those positions that are going to be put forward at the United Nations. And here’s the problem. A major problem. What the Palestinians want is they want a state, but they don’t want to give Israel peace in return. Israel is in favor of a Palestinian state that would end the conflict of Israel.”

Todd: How do you restore trust as an ambassador here in United States? Some in the Obama administration quietly seem to hint that relations could improve with the prime minister if you weren’t in your position. Dermer: I serve at the pleasure of the Israeli government and the Israeli prime minister. And as long as they have confidence in me, I will continue to do everything I can to not only advance my country’s interests, but to work to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Israel. Todd: Do you believe the Obama administration can trust you? Dermer: Yes. [NBC NewsFacebook] • McCain on CNN: “Get over your temper tantrum Mr. President” [CNN] • “Palestinian Government Will Not Back Down From U.N. Resolution” [MeetThePress]

Dore Gold to NYTimes: “I don’t see the disagreements over the Palestinians being the basis for the state of relations — it must extend to the fact that they’re about to cut a deal with Tehran and they know that Israel has serious reservations about the substance of that agreement,” Mr. Gold said in a telephone interview. “The issue of Iran is paramount in both Jerusalem and in Washington, and it may affect the tone at present.” [NYTimesJPost]

J Street Scene: On March 22, 2016, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center will host the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in DC. But on this year’s March 22nd, the twelve-year-old convention center hosted J Street’s 5th National Conference instead. There were several noticeable differences between the J Street and AIPAC conferences. For starters, in stark contrast to AIPAC, there was no real visible security at J Street. Moreover, the 2.3 million square-foot convention center somewhat dwarfed the 2,500 J Streeters, raising questions among some attendees as to why exactly J Street chose this venue over the myriad of suitable hotels in the area. Indeed, having both conferences at the same venue, and in the same month, seemed to exemplify what Peter Beinart wrote in The Atlantic last week that AIPAC “remains the most powerful American Jewish group in Washington.”

On the issues, J Street’s programming seemed to focus more on domestic Israeli politics, and less so on the broader Middle East or the larger U.S. foreign policy arena as AIPAC often does. In general, J Street appears to proportionately host more Israeli and Palestinian attendees. There was obviously much talk regarding the results of the recent Israeli elections. As Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out, “Bibi is good for J Street, and J Street is good for Bibi.” [Twitter]

“Netanyahu’s Reelection Pushes J Street to the Left: Lobby Now Supports Taking Conflict to the U.N. Security Council” by Nathan Guttman: “Emboldened by President Obama’s public rebuke of Israel’s recently re-elected leader Benjamin Netanyahu, the dovish lobby J Street is stepping up its criticism of the Israeli prime minister and, at the same time, highlighting the differences between its views and those of the mainstream Jewish community organizations… J Street’s main challenge now is ensuring their activists, many of whom are students, do not fall into despair following the Israeli elections and give up on the chances for achieving a two-state solution.” [Forward]

HAPPENING TODAY: At 1:30pm, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough will deliver a keynote address followed by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Saeb Erekat, Amb. Martin Indyk, and MK Hilik Bar. At 7:30pm, James Baker and Randi Weingarten will speak at J Street’s gala. [Livestream]

Jonathan Tobin: “Bush can’t let Baker’s appearance at the J Street event go unremarked upon. He must either explicitly distance himself from Baker’s appearance and from J Street’s support for Obama’s threats against Israel or ask Baker to formally disassociate himself from his presidential effort.” [Commentary• “Bush adviser Paul Wolfowitz buys $1 million Florida condo” [Politico]

TOP TALKER: “Do the Democrats and Israel Have a Future Together?” by Jason Horowitz:“Look, I’m Republican,” Elliott Abrams told me. “But the problem that no one wants to talk about is the erosion of support in the Democratic Party.”… “Democrats who feel less supportive are not going to listen to me. They are going to listen to Hillary Clinton.” [NYTimes]

2016 WATCH — “Clinton Backers Say Criticizing Netanyahu Can Wait: “Yes the community split, but it’s hardly split 50-50 right now,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a consultant to the National Jewish Democratic Council and a co-founder of Jewish Americans Ready for Hillary. He argued that the number of Jewish Democrats aching for Mrs. Clinton to criticize Mr. Netanyahu was still relatively small, so she could continue to resist pressure to weigh in. (She has been mum on the issue thus far.) “While we liberals are nervous about where the party is going on this issue, we get that she is not Barack Obama,” said Mr. Rabinowitz, who served in the Clinton administration.” [NYTimes]

“Norman Braman’s support could prove pivotal for Marco Rubio’s presidential ambitions” by Patricia Mazzei: “Despite their age difference — Braman is 82 and Rubio is 43 — the two friends speak occasionally, either on the phone or by text messages, Braman said. He insisted he doesn’t weigh in on policy matters, though Braman, who is Jewish, cares deeply about Israel, and Rubio, who is Catholic, has emerged as an outspoken Israel hawk.” [MiamiHerald]

“Lobbyist For Saudi Arabia Sits On Rand Paul’s Senate Re-Election Leadership Team” by Rosie Gray: “Kentucky Senator Rand Paul plans to attack Hillary Clinton in a speech Friday night for the donations that Saudi Arabia has given to the Clinton Foundation. But Paul has a factor on his side that could complicate that line of attack: former Senator Norm Coleman, who lobbies for the Saudis, sits on his Senate re-election leadership team… Coleman did not say he’s supporting Paul’s presidential run, however.” [BuzzFeed] • Coleman told Jewish Insider earlier this month that he plans to support Lindsey Graham in 2016 should the senior U.S. Senator from South Carolina run.

“Why Real Libertarians Hate Rand Paul” by Olivia Nuzzi: “The breaking point came on March 9, when Paul was faced with one of the most challenging decisions of his political career… Paul’s position on Iran has always been closer to Obama’s than to that of his fellow Senate Republicans—until March 9, when he joined 47 of his fellow Senate Republicans in signing the letter. “This is more than a flip-flop. This is a backflip,” Justin Raimondo.” [DailyBeast]

Rick Perry’s MOT 2016 Manager: “At the helm of Perry’s 2016 effort is Jeff Miller, a Perry confidant who’s a relatively fresh face in the former governor’s innermost circle but no stranger to his political designs. Miller led Perry’s 2012 campaign in California and served as a top fundraiser there. He has effectively filled the void left by Dave Carney, Perry’s longtime political maestro who parted ways with the former governor after his 2012 bid.” [TexasTribune]

Ben Carson on the Israeli Palestinian conflict: “We need to look at fresh ideas,” said Carson. “I don’t have any problem with the Palestinians having a state, but does it need to be within the confines of Israeli territory? Is that necessary, or can you sort of slip that area down into Egypt? Right below Israel, they have some amount of territory, and it can be adjacent.” [Bloomberg]

IRAN TALKS: “Unstated Factor in Iran Talks: Threat of Nuclear Tampering” by David E. Sanger and William J. Broad: “If negotiators succeed in reaching a deal with Iran, does the huge, covert sabotage effort by the United States, Israel and some European allies come to an end?… “Probably not,” said one senior official with knowledge of the program. In fact, a number of officials make the case that surveillance of Iran will intensify and covert action may become more important than ever.” [NYTimes] • “CIA: We Can Handle Iran” [CNN] • “France Takes Toughest Line” [WSJ] • “Talks to resume next week” [Reuters]

Eli Lake: “Imagine how delighted Khamenei must have been with U.S. President Barack Obama’s message last week on Persian New Year, or Nowruz. Obama urged the Iranian people to press their leaders to accept a nuclear deal he said would help end Iran’s international isolation… It’s as if Iran is just like France or Brazil. Should Iran’s regime ever go the way of Libya’s, [the new leaders] will likely resent that a U.S. president had the nerve to pretend it ever mattered what the Iranian people thought of the deal Obama wished their dictator would accept.” [BloombergView] • “The Iran time bomb” [WashPost]

“Iran’s Coming Leadership Crisis: Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has cancer. After him are men even less likely to comply with a nuclear deal” by Sohrab Ahmari: “What happens if the Iranian leadership that the U.S. and others are dealing with now is not in place to implement any agreement? Two recent developments suggest that the Islamic Republic may be heading toward one of its cyclical spasms of intense factional competition. The outcome could derail any deal, or leave the West committed to an agreement that is even less verifiable or useful than it might be today. There is scant evidence that the Obama administration is taking this into account.” [WSJ]

“Charges Against Sen. Robert Menendez Expected as Early as This Week” by Devlin Barrett: “Federal investigators are preparing to file criminal charges against Sen. Robert Menendez as early as this week, following a legal battle over how much the Constitution shields lawmakers and their aides, according to people familiar with the investigation.” [WSJ] • @DaveWeigel: “Hey wow the charges are gonna drop on Menendez the week of his new Iran bill, what a coincidence” [Twitter]

TOP TWEET: U.S. Amb. Dan Shapiro — “It’s going to be a very happy Pesach!” due to Ben & Jerry’s new ‘Charoset’ flavored ice cream. [Twitter]

HEARD YESTERDAY: Former Senator Joe Lieberman and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks held a conversation on “The Haggada’ Politics: From 2,000 Years Ago to Today” moderated by Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik at Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus.

WEEKEND SCENE: “Former Israeli President Shimon Peres visited the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, to present former President Bush with the Friends of Zion Award. The honor was given to recognize President Bush’s longstanding and unflagging support for the Nation of Israel and the Jewish people. President Peres is the international chair of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center in Jerusalem, for which the award is named.” [NewsWire] • See Peres’ pic [Instagram

HAPPENING TODAY: At 11:30am, Peres will speak at Tarrant County College’s 50th anniversary in Forth Werth with former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright and Rep. Kay Granger [Star-Telegram]

The JCPA Winter Meeting at the UJA Federation of New York. Topics include.. Anti-Semitism, Israel, World Jewry, & International Human Rights. [JCPA]

Rob Satloff: “It’s time for an intervention. Friends of the U.S.-Israel relationship shouldn’t let their leaders drive drunk on confidence. If they do, they may inadvertently steer a precious alliance right off the cliff. No, America and Israel are not equal partners. Some argue that, in our Darwinian world, the smaller nation needs to defer to the bigger one. Others argue that what’s at stake matters more to the smaller state so the bigger one should give sway. Both are true. And in that contradiction lies hope that that the confidence energizing the two leaders — President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu — will produce real leadership.” [DailyNews]

“Inside The Collapse Of The Campaign Against Netanyahu” by Amir Tibon and Ben Birnbaum: “That morning, Herzog called Netanyahu from his home, in Tel Aviv, to offer his congratulations. The option of a national-unity government—the object of much speculation in the campaign’s final days—was not discussed…  After one of the most divisive elections in Israel’s history, Herzog and Netanyahu agreed that the Israeli public had been presented with two contrasting visions and made its choice.” [NewYorker] • “Ari Harow and Aron Shaviv reveal how they seized the election from the jaws of defeat” [JPost• “Netanyahu pollster: Obama role in election larger than reported” [TheHill]

Ari Shavit: “In order to win the battle for the soul of Israel, the Israeli center-left must redefine itself much in the way that the American Democratic Party redefined itself under the leadership of Bill Clinton and the British Labor Party did under the leadership of Tony Blair. What is also needed is a new—and pragmatic—peace-idea that addresses the legitimate and justified fears of most Israelis.” [PoliticoMag]

David Remnick: “For twenty years, many people in Israel and in the West have expressed the hope that Benjamin Netanyahu would prove to be the Richard Nixon of the State of Israel.” [NewYorker]

JEWISH VOTE: “Steve King: I Don’t Understand How American Jews Can Be Democrats” by Andrew Kaczynski and Megan Apper: “But anti-Semitism is a component of this and just plain liberalism is another component. I mean the president wants the world to be, he thinks somehow he can force the world can be the world he myopically believes it is. You have to be a realist.” [BuzzFeed]

NJDC’s Greg Rosenbaum emails… “For anyone, let alone an elected official, to actively belittle the hundreds of thousands of American Jews who vote for Democratic candidates is beyond the pale… Rep. King is essentially stating that we aren’t Jewish enough for him. How dare he.”

TWITTER TUSSLE: @RepSteveIsrael – “I don’t need Congressman Steve King questioning my religion or my politics. I demand an apology from him & repudiation from GOP. #dangerous” [Twitter] • @SteveKingIA responds — “@RepSteveIsrael: Real men make such requests face 2 face & man 2 man. I defend Israelis from Leftists & misogynists.” [Twitter] • @RepSteveIsrael — “Good to know @SteveKingIA has become a Talmudic scholar  on what defines Jews. Steve, you really are mashugana. Look it up.” [Twitter]

**Good Monday 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 SPOTLIGHT: “For Clintons, a Hedge Fund in the Family” by Matthew Goldstein, Steve Eder: “Since marrying Chelsea Clinton five years ago, Marc Mezvinsky, a money manager, appears to have settled into his life as Bill and Hillary Clinton’s son-in-law… Beyond the glamour, being part of the Clinton family has provided Mr. Mezvinsky with another perk: access to wealthy investors with ties to the Clintons. The investors include hedge fund managers like Marc Lasry and James Leitner; an overseas money management firm connected to the Rothschild family; and people from Goldman Sachs, including the chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein.” [NYTimes]

STARTUP NATION: “Chutzpah Lessons From the Israeli Startup Scene” by Omar Tellez:“The Israeli Defense Force has created a country in which “sugar coating” is perceived as offensive and where a healthy cynicism for authority is encouraged. If you’re the type of person that will blush or gasp, during a product review when someone yells, “this is perhaps the most stupid idea I’ve ever heard of!” you definitely need to work on getting tougher skin… In the end, the funny thing about Israelis is that they’ll be the first ones to acknowledge that they’re hard to work with.” [TechCrunch] • “Israel Unpacked: The Next Move For Start-up Nation” [Forbes] • “Facebook Israel to hire 40 new employees” [JPost]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “From Different Worlds, Sharing a Spiritual Journey, and Now Family Loss” by Vivian Yee and David W. Chen: “The couple came from far-flung corners of the Syrian Jewish diaspora: He was the son of a grandee in a Syrian Jewish outpost in Kobe, Japan, who attended a Canadian international school and spoke fluent Japanese; she was the daughter of a family with a comfortable life in southern Brooklyn, home to a thriving enclave of more than 75,000 Syrian Jews. But when they met, in Israel, around 1998, Gabriel Sassoon and Gayle Jemal had arrived at similar points in their spiritual journeys.” [NYTimes]

“Use of hot plates eyed after Brooklyn fire kills 7 siblings” by Michael Balsamo: “An ultra-Orthodox Jewish community shattered by the deaths of seven siblings in a house fire carried out their funerals Sunday, a day after a hot plate left on for the Sabbath is believed to have sparked the fire that killed them. The tragedy had some neighborhood Jews reconsidering the practice of keeping hot plates on for the Sabbath, a common modern method of obeying tradition prohibiting use of fire on the holy day.” [AP]

DESSERT: “Dog Or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz” by Lena Dunham: “Do the following statements refer to (a) my dog or (b) my Jewish boyfriend? 5. Our anniversary is in two days and I’m not sure if he remembers. 13. He doesn’t tip.14. And he never brings his wallet anywhere. 23. My grandma Dottie loves him and says he’s a “good, good boy.” 31. In addition, he is openly hostile toward the Hasidic community, focussing most of his rage on their bulky (but chic) fur hats.” [NewYorker] h/t Daniel Lippman

That’s all folks; have a great day!

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