Daily Kickoff: U.S. spying on Israel uncovers Israel spying on Iran talks | Dems’ Dermer Dinner | Yehuda Avner passed away | Benny Shabtai profile

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High Stakes Spy Game: “Israel Spied on Iran Talks” by Adam Entous: “It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter. The U.S. and Israel, longtime allies who routinely swap information on security threats, sometimes operate behind the scenes like spy-versus-spy rivals.”

“The White House discovered the operation, in fact, when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted communications among Israeli officials that carried details the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks, officials briefed on the matter said. Israeli officials denied spying directly on U.S. negotiators and said they received their information through other means.” [WSJ]

—Key quote re: Hillary: “People feel personally sold out,” a senior administration official said. “That’s where the Israelis really better be careful because a lot of these people will not only be around for this administration but possibly the next one as well.” [WSJ]

OUTREACH: “Israeli ambassador meets House Dems” by Lauren French: “Set up by New York Rep. Steve Israel, the dinner at the ambassador’s residence was a chance for the Democrats and Dermer to hold a “helpful dialogue”… Reps. Kathleen Rice of New York, Ruben Gallego of Arizona, Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Gwen Graham of Florida all attended the dinner… Dermer was “realistic about [his] expectations” that a deal could be reached, Israel said.” [Politico]

Yehuda Avner, Ambassador and Advisor, Dies at 86: ‘Yehuda Avner, a senior advisor and speechwriter to five Israeli prime ministers and an articulate chronicler of the Jewish state’s history, died March 24, 2015 in Jerusalem… Avner served in diplomatic positions at the Israeli Consulate in New York City, and the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. In 1983, he was appointed Ambassador to Britain and Non-resident Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland. He returned to Israel in 1988, before serving as Ambassador to Australia between 1992 and 1995.” [JewishJournal]

Washington Post Headline: “U.S. relations with this country are chilled. And it’s not Israel.” [WashPost]

Ted Cruz’s 2016 announcement speech: “Instead of a president who boycotts Prime Minister Netanyahu, imagine a president who stands unapologetically with the state of Israel. (long applause). Watch the video [CSPAN]

Thank you Playbook — the gold standard of curated newsletters — for the Jewish Insider shoutout yesterday [Twitter]

SCENE LAST NIGHT: According to a JI reader in attendence, around 80-90 Cruz donors gathered last night in the Trump Place triplex of Rebekah Mercer, daughter of hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer, on the Upper West Side to hear from the first declared 2016 presidential candidate. Cruz was heard saying over a campaign line that is likely to be repeated frequently by the candidate in the coming months… “With Reagonomics, you can start a business in your parents’ garage, but with Obamanomics you end up moving back into your parents’ garage after college.” He also compared GOP frontrunner Jeb Bush to David Dewhurst, whom Cruz defeated in his first Senatorial campaign. In all, Cruz reportedly spent a little over two hours working the room.

—“Ted Cruz’s big-money crisis: The Texas Republican is months behind his competitors in recruiting mega-donors and bundlers.” [Politico]

Vice President Joe Biden met with the World Jewish Congress at a reception last evening in DC. …Biden said: “I spent a lot of time in Austria, Munich, and France talking about anti-Semitism in Europe and other places around the world and let me tell you that your work really matters. If you don’t constantly speak out every time it raises its ugly head — if you let it sit for a minute — it’s like a boil that festers. I want to thank you all for your constant, unrelenting oversight and for making sure that wherever it rears its head, you speak.”

Today at 10:00 a.m. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken meets with members of the Executive Committee of the World Jewish Congress, at the White House. [StateDept]

J Street Conference: “White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough Says the Israeli Occupation ‘Must End'” by Jessica Schulberg: “We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made, or that they don’t raise questions about the prime minister’s commitment to achieving peace through direct negotiations,” McDonough added, saying that the Obama administration plans to reevaluate its policy toward Israel and the Palestinian territories.” [HuffPostPolitico] • Full remarks [Transcript]

Lindsey Graham responds: “Israel an ‘occupying’ power? It’s a shame Obama Administration is now adopting language of Hamas and other radical terrorist organizations.” [Twitter]

“Netanyahu Apologizes; White House Is Unmoved” by Jodi Rudoren and Julie Hirschfeld Davis: “But even as Netanyahu spoke with a group of Israeli Arabs gathered at his Jerusalem residence, the White House issued a new signal that it remained furious with Mr. Netanyahu for campaign comments that also appeared to close the door on a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict.” [NYTimesAP] • Richard N. Haass: White House criticism of #Israel PM lacks strategic purpose. time to focus on future & work privately to repair ties” [Twitter]

Baker blasts Bibi at J Street: “The former top diplomat accused Netanyahu of “diplomatic missteps and political gamesmanship,” a reference to the prime minister’s alliance with Republicans in drumming up opposition to a nuclear deal with Iran as well as his policies toward the Palestinians… Baker, who was recently named a foreign policy advisor to the nascent presidential campaign of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said that there is no military solution to the Iranian nuclear question since an Israeli strike would not only be ineffective but it would also lack American support.” [JPost] • Bush spokesman Tim Miller: “Jeb has said over and over he disagrees w J street/Obama Israel policy” [Twitter]

TOP TALKER: “Even Some Of The Most Liberal American Jews Are Skeptical Of Obama’s Iran Deal” by Rosie Gray: “There are legitimate questions about whether the deal that’s coalescing is a deal that should be made,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the head of the Union for Reform Judaism, told BuzzFeed News. He warned that there was “a lot of naiveté about the security risks that Israel faces” among pro-Israel progressives.”

“I think if you have a showdown between the prime minister and the president, not about whether to speak or not speak to Congress but whether a deal with Iran is one that is good for the U.S., Israel, and the region, that’s a substantive argument and that argument has not yet been had effectively and deeply,” Jacobs said. “And it’s about to happen, but with the amount of distrust and the partisan ways people look at it, I’m worried we’re not going to to have the debate that we need to have. Or that it’ll be just who lines up with Obama and who lines up with Bibi.” [BuzzFeed]

NYTimes: “Iran’s Hard-Liners Show Restraint on Nuclear Talks With U.S.” by Thomas Erdbrink: “The restraint by the hard-liners also reflects a general satisfaction, analysts say, with the direction of the talks and the successes Iran is enjoying, extending and deepening its influence in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. As a result, state-condoned demonstrations against the talks have fizzled out, as have meetings among hard-line politicians and student groups who said they had been worried about a potential deal.” [NYTimes] • “Yemen is latest in string of victories for Iran” [USA Today] • Hannin Ghaddar: “A pact with Iran sends a clear message to Arab liberals: No one will help you” [TabletMag] • Israel seeks an ally in France to oppose Iran deal [AP]

“Judge, Citing State Secrets, Throws Out Lawsuit Over Iran Against UANI” by Larry Neumeister: “A federal judge, citing national security concerns, on Monday threw out a defamation lawsuit a wealthy Greek shipping magnate brought against a nonprofit organization seeking to prevent Iran’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.” [AP]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Tensions among U.S. Jews over Israel on display as Hillel leader pulls out of speech” by Michelle Boorstein: “The vast majority of U.S. Jews support Israel, but they have long been very divided about how to show that support and what political decisions will best help the Jewish state. Those divisions — exacerbated by last week’s bruising election in Israel – were on display Monday in the streets of D.C., where hundreds of progressive [J Street] students marched to protest a national Jewish leader who pulled out of a planned lecture.” [WashPost] • Pick your headline: “J Street Delegation Defaces Hillel International Headquarters” [TheTower]

David Brooks Op: “How to Fight Anti-Semitism” — NYTimes: “Anti-Semitism is rising around the world. So the question becomes: What can we do to fight it? Do education campaigns work, or marches or conferences? There are three major strains of anti-Semitism circulating, different in kind and virulence, and requiring different responses.” [NYTimes]

**Good Tuesday 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: “Revlon settles ‘viral’ discrimination lawsuit by ex-science chief: Meyers also alleged Delpani expressed surprise at the lack of Jewish executives at Revlon because “Jews stick together.”.. Meyers also claimed Delpani mentioned Ronald Perelman, who is Revlon’s billionaire controlling shareholder and Jewish, when he made the allegedly derogatory comments, the lawsuit said.” [Fortune]

“Billionaire Mort Zuckerman injured in ski accident” [NYPost] • “How David Geffen’s $100 Million Lincoln Center Gift Came Together” [NYTimes• “From The Israeli Army Unit 8200 To Silicon Valley” [TechCrunch] • Israeli Startups Yo and Meerkat team up [YoMeerkat] • “Alibaba Invests in Israel’s JVP to Boost Hacking Protection” [Bloomberg]

HAPPENING TODAY: The Israel Dealmakers Summit 2015 kicks off at Credit Suisse, and later at the Hilton Midtown, in NYC. The two day conference will feature over 100 speakers including Waze founder Uri Levine, OurCrowd’s Jon Medved, Israel’s Chief Scientist Avi Hasson, Startup Nation’s Dan Senor, Israeli Economic Minister Nili Shalev, Moovit CEO Nir Erez, NYTimes’ Arthur O. SulzbergerDavid Blumberg, and Bloomberg’s Pimm Fox[IDS• Drop us a note if you’ll be attending…

PROFILE: “From apps to advocacy: The Israeli-American millionaire who made Israel an ivory-tower brand” by James Kirchick: “After succeeding beyond his wildest dreams in America, Israeli-born high-tech maven Benny Shabtai has sold off his family’s stake in Viber and is now devoting his energies to garnering support for his homeland and preparing future Jewish leaders.” [Haaretz]

Pencils of Promise founder Adam Braun: “Everyone has people who are celebs in their mind that aren’t mainstream. This is one of mine, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. A man of profound insight and eloquence. Got to spend time together one-on-one yesterday and his advice was truly gamechanging. Listen to his onstage interview with the Dalai Lama on the podcast On Being, you’ll understand why meeting him was such a big deal to me. #seektruth” [Instagram]

The Brooklyn Nets remembered the Sassoon children at an NBA game last night [Facebook]

That’s all folks; have a great day!

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**Have a tip, suggestion, or even an op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Email  editor@jewishinsider.com**


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