Daily Kickoff: Year in review | U.S. preparing new Iran sanctions | Obama & Seinfeld joke about foreign leaders in office too long | Kosher cannabis
2015 IN REVIEW: It has been one busy year to say the least. Hard to remember a recent time when the issues involving the Jewish and pro-Israel community played out on the front pages of the national media to the extent they did in 2015. One of the challenges of producing a daily newsletter and being tied to the second-by-second news cycle is that we don’t always maintain focus on the longterm picture and perspective. Yesterday, we took some time to go through all the Daily Kickoff issues from the first six months of 2015. Here’s a quick run down of some of the topics and stories we covered.
JANUARY: 1) As with much of the year, the Iran talks dominate the conversation in January. President Obama and Sen. Menendez spar over how to handle Iran. The president said he understood the pressures that senators face from donors. 2) Anti-deal folks seem to have momentum with several key Senate Dems until… House Speaker John Boehner invites Netanyahu to speak to Congress without coordinating with the White House first. 3) Conference of Presidents eases membership rules after J Street vote. 4)Questions are raised after the mysterious death of Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman. 5) Sheldon Silver faces corruption charges. 6) Rumors that Mike Bloomberg would buy the NYTimes. 7) Tom Brady’s menorah. 8) American Family Association’s controversial trip to Israel. 9) Menendez-Kirk Iran sanctions bill in the Senate. 10) NYTimes picks on Israeli Amb. Ron Dermer.
FEBRUARY: 1) Biden & Kerry announce their plans to skip Bibi’s speech in Congress. 2) Josh Earnest & Jen Psaki struggle with Obama’s suggestion that Paris kosher deli attacks were ‘random’. 3) ADL callsout J. Street over anti-Bibi campaign. 4) Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in the WSJ on the return of anti-Semitism. 5) John Baird steps down as Canadian Foreign Minister. 6) Debbie Wasserman Schultz walks back critique of Jewish intermarriages. 7) Crazy Jewish Mom goes viral. 8) Jewish leaders rebuffNetanyahu’s call for mass migration from France. 9) Henry Kravis hosts a Jeb fundraiser with a $100,000 minimum admission price. 10) Ivanka Trump discusses her Judaism in Vogue Magazine.
MARCH: 1) AIPAC Policy Conference recap. 2) Bibi speech recap + spotteds. 3) Ben Rubin’s Meerkat goes viral. 4) Norman Brownstein stars on ‘House of Cards’. 5) UCLA debate over Jewish student. 6)Sen. Tom Cotton’s letter on Iran. 7) Bloomberg profiles Josh Sason, a 27-year-old who made millions riding the death spirals of penny stocks. 8) Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic cover story on “Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?” 9) ISRAELEX preview & recap. 10) J Street Conference recap including Jim Baker’s speech.
APRIL: 1) JI scoop & recap of President Obama’s meetings with Jewish leaders to discuss Iran. 2) Cardin & Corker pass bill to increase Congress’ involvement in Iran talks. 3) Ted Cruz woos Orthodox Jews. 4) NYPost details “the poshest Passover in the world.” 5) ‘Jew for Rand’ Paul Sign Raises Eyebrows, Is Changed. 6) VP Joe Biden steals Mike Bloomberg’s grandson’s pacifier. 7) George Soros’ son builds a PAC for Jewish voters. 8) Jeb visits Ramaz. 9) Biden speaks at Israel’s Independence Day celebration in D.C. 10) RJC Spring Meeting in Vegas.
MAY: 1) President Obama speaks at Adas Israel. 2) Cory Booker delivers Dvar Torah at ADL dinner honoring Abe Foxman. 3) Natalie Portman sounds off on Israel, Netanyahu, French Anti-Semitism. 4)Tom Cotton votes against Corker-Cardin which passes Senate 98-1. 5) Sheldon Adelson receives a George W. Bush original painting. 6) Rabbi Steve Gutow steps down at JCPA. 7) LeFraks of New York and the Soffers of South Florida team up on a $4 billion, 183-acre development in North Miami. 8) Rosie Gray profiles Miriam Adelson. 9) Cruz & Christie at Boteach’s gala dinner. 10) Jewish Navy cadet among 7 killed in Amtrak crash.
JUNE: 1) Ahmed Zayat’s horse American Pharoah wins the Belmont Stakes becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. 2) Adelson, Saban host secret anti-BDS summit for Jewish donors. 3) Our video of Chuck Schumer discussing Iran went viral as it revealed the leading Senate Democrat’s view on the issue. 4) Lindsey Graham unveils impressive finance committee. 5) Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was booed at the JPost conference. 6) Supreme Court sides with President over Congress in ‘Jerusalem’ passport dispute. 7) Sneak previews of Michael Oren’s new book begin causing controversy. 8) ADL dinner honoring Abe Foxman’s 50 years with the organization. 9) David Cordish introduces Donald Trump during his first week as a candidate. 10) Undecided bundler Phil Rosen endorses Marco Rubio.
Relevant Tidbits We Picked Up In Our Archives: On Feb. 16th, David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth wrote in the NYTimes that “the United States has found a way to permanently embed surveillance and sabotage tools in computers and networks it has targeted in Iran, Russia, Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and other countries closely watched by American intelligence agencies, according to a Russian cybersecurity firm.” [NYT] • How about in Israel?
On Jan. 22nd, Barak Ravid wrote… “A senior Israeli official with knowledge of the contacts, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter, said that the one who had initiated the contacts with Boehner and with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and their staffs was Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer. According to the senior official, Dermer approached Boehner, McConnell and other senior Republican Party figures at Netanyahu’s behest and suggested the idea of the speech.” [Haaretz] • In contrast to the WSJ yesterday: “Administration officials thought the idea was cooked up by Messrs. Dermer and Netanyahu, and then proposed to the Republicans in Congress. In fact, it was the other way around, congressional officials said.” [WSJ]
On Feb. 19th, an aide to Sheldon Adelson was quoted saying: “Any support of a presidential candidate is at least a year away,” the adviser, Andy Abboud, said. [Bloomberg]
2015 NOTES — BIGGEST JI SCOOP: “Did NPR host Diane Rehm just accuse Bernie Sanders of dual citizenship with Israel?” by Jared Sichel & JI Staff [JewishInsider]
FAVORITE HEADLINE: “Is Chickens**t Chopped Liver?” [JewishInsider]
TOP LISTICLE: White House Machers: Which Jewish leaders have the most visits to the White House [JewishInsider]
MAZAL TOV to Malcolm Hoenlein who became a great-grandfather this week.
IRAN DEAL: “Obama Administration Preparing Fresh Iran Sanctions” by Jay Solomon:“The planned action by the Treasury Department, U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal, is directed at nearly a dozen companies and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates for their alleged role in developing Iran’s ballistic-missile program. Iranian officials have warned the White House in recent months that any such financial penalties would be viewed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a violation of the nuclear accord.” [WSJ; Reuters]
TOP TALKER: “Two House Panels to Review NSA Handling of Israeli Communications” by Siobhan Hughes: “Two House panels said they would review how the National Security Agency handled communications it collected when Israeli officials campaigned in Congress earlier this year to block the Iran nuclear deal.” [WSJ; ForeignPolicy] • House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s letter to NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers [Letter]
Israel Responds To NSA Spying Report: “Top Israeli officials, in response, on Wednesday said the country could file a formal protest with the White House. Yisrael Katz, Israel’s intelligence and transport minister, said if the spying claims were found to be true, Israel would demand the U.S. immediately cease surveillance.” [WSJ]
Glenn Greenwald Op: “Spying on Congress and Israel: NSA Cheerleaders Discover Value of Privacy Only When Their Own is Violated” [TheIntercept]
“Dems brush off latest spying report” by Jordan Fabian: “Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said it is no secret that the U.S. and Israel spy on each other, even though they are allies. “I’m not surprised,” he told The Hill. “I kind of think the report is much to do about nothing.” [TheHill]
“GOP Hopefuls Stick to Positions on NSA Surveillance Amid Spying on Israel Report” by Jacob Kornbluh: “Obviously, people read this report, and they have a right to be concerned this morning about it,” Rubio said. “They have a right to be concerned about the fact that while some leaders around the world are no longer being targeted, one of our strongest allies in the Middle East — Israel — is. These are all concerns, and they’re legitimate.”… Rubio continued, “We have to be very careful about how we discuss it, especially since there’s a press report that I don’t think gets the entire story.”
“Senator Rand Paul, appearing on the same program, was less defensive of the program. “I’m appalled by it. This is exactly why we need more NSA reform and the debate in Washington right now has been unfortunately going the other way, since the San Bernardino shooting, everyone’s saying ‘Oh we need more surveillance of Americans.’ In reality, what we need is more targeted surveillance,” Paul said. “I’m not against surveillance, but I am against indiscriminate surveillance.” [JewishInsider] • “Carson: Hillary Knew of the U.S. Spying on Israel” [JI]
REPORT: “Rubio Defends NSA Spying On Netanyahu In Private, Condemns It In Public” by Patrick Howley: “This reporter heard the conversation while picking up a laptop computer and other materials left in a back room, away from where reporters were eating breakfast. Rubio, Gowdy, a couple of campaign staffers, and a Secret Service agent were the only ones present in the back room. “We spy on everyone,” Rubio told Gowdy, defending the practice of spying on a U.S. ally. “That’s the nature of intelligence.” “It’s more complicated than the [WSJ] story makes it seem,” Rubio added.” [Breitbart]
JEWISH PUNDITS: Bruce Abramson and Jeff Ballabon — “Trump? Cruz? Rubio? How GOP race will play out” [CNBC]
Former Trump Aide Sam Nunberg: “I do not think that he will win” [DailyBeast]
BUSINESS BRIEFS: “Steven Spielberg Puts His Own Big Bucks Into Jeff Skoll’s New Amblin Partners” [Variety] • “West Loop office tower adds Israeli investor, losing largest tenant” [Crains] • “Rooftop bar at David Bistricer and Joseph Chetrit’s Hotel Bossert coming soon?” [BrooklynEagle]
36 Hours in Tel Aviv — by Debra Kamin: “Tel Aviv-Jaffa has many pet names, but perhaps none so fitting as Medinat Tel Aviv (the State of Tel Aviv). This seafront metropolis of 400,000 may still trail Jerusalem in both population and historical importance, but Tel Avivians are too busy basking in their pristine beaches, high-tech scene and 300 annual days of sunshine to notice.” [NYTimes]
CAMPUS BEAT: “This Is What Happens When BDS Infiltrates Social Causes That Have Nothing to Do With Israel” by Jared Samilow: “The movement is successfully convincing activists that one cannot fight for women’s rights, academic freedom or against racism without acknowledging Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. This poses a problem for liberal American Jews more than anyone else.” [Haaretz]
COMEDY: “For the premiere episode of Season 7, Jerry Seinfeld takes President Barack Obama for a spin in a 1963 Corvette Stingray Split Window Coupe but finds it hard to spirit the leader of the free world off the White House grounds.” [CICGC]
–Highlights: Seinfeld asks: “How many world leaders, you think, are just completely out of their mind?” Obama: “A pretty sizable percentage… Part of what happens is, these guys, I think the longer they stay in office, the more likely that is to happen..”
Obama asks Seinfeld: “How did you calibrate dealing with that? At a certain point, you might have thought to yourself, ‘You know what? I’m more than just a comedian. I’m going to make a Jewish version of Citizen Kane.’ How do you keep perspective?” Seinfeld: “I will give you the real answer: It’s got to be similar to your life. I fell in love with the work, and the work is joyful, difficult and interesting. That was my focus.”
DESSERT: “N.Y. medical pot grower says products are certified kosher” by Glenn Blain:“This pot is kosher! A marijuana grower gearing up for the start of New York’s medical pot program in January announced Wednesday that its products have been certified kosher by the Orthodox Union. Vireo Health of New York, which was one of five companies chosen by the state to grow and distribute medical pot, said it will be the first “medical cannabis company in the world” to have the “OU” symbol on its oils, vaporization cartridges and other products… “Judaism prioritizes health and encourages the use of medicine designed to improve one’s health or reduce pain,” Rabbi Menachem Genack said. “Using medical cannabis products recommended by a physician should not be regarded as a chet, a sinful act, but rather as a mitzvah, an imperative, a commandment.” [DailyNews]
Julia Kramer: “Of Bagels and Babka at NYC’s Best New Jewish Delis” [BonAppétit]
BIRTHDAYS: Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, born born Diane Simone Michelle Halfin, turns 69… Nobel laureate in Chemistry, Avram Hershko, turns 78… Roz Singer… Jonathan Scheiner…