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TOP TALKER: Bibi did sit next to a ‘Martin’ at Rabin’s funeral but… “Netanyahu denies bemoaning Rabin’s death as a ‘hero’” by Raphael Ahren and Rebecca Shimoni Stoil: “Martin Indyk claimed that Netanyahu sat next to him at the time of the funeral and said: “Look, look at this. He’s a hero now, but if he had not been assassinated, I would have beaten him in the elections, and then he would have gone into history as a failed politician.” Hours after Indyk’s account was aired Tuesday night in a two-hour-long PBS “Frontline” documentary on the relationship between Netanyahu and the White House, the Prime Minister’s Office put out a terse response asserting that “these things never happened.” Photos from the 1995 funeral carried by Israeli media showed Netanyahu sitting between former president Moshe Katsav and businessman Martin Schlaff. But Indyk later said on Twitter that the conversation took place earlier, at the Knesset, when Rabin’s body was lying in state, rather than at the funeral.” [ToIJPost]

Full Frontline Interview — Martin Indyk: “Obama Has Essentially Written Off Netanyahu” [PBS]

FLASHBACK: Two longform pieces to read or re-read after watching the Frontline documentary on Netanyahu.

From May 31, 1996 — “Star of Zion” by David Margolick: “Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, opposition candidate for prime minister of Israel, may be a darling of the American media. But as bomb-shocked Israelis go to the polls, Netanyahu’s political ace is his 20-year obsession with terrorism.” [VanityFair]

From November 2015 — “Scenes From A Marriage” by Amir Tibon and Tal Shalev: “The worst relationship between a U.S. President and an Israeli Prime Minister ever–as autopsied by the people closest to them.” [Highline.HuffPost]

Key paragraph — “Obama’s staff was apoplectic. One Israeli official said it was impossible not to notice the angry looks and hear whispers of “how can he do this?” Obama himself seemed much less concerned. He waited patiently for the prime minister to finish, and then accompanied him to his limo in good spirits. Only when Obama returned to the Oval Office, says one American official, did his aides rile him up, although he still wasn’t as angered as some. One official described the feeling in the White House at the time in two words: “F*** Bibi.””

INBOX: A close American friend of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who wished to remain anonymous, emailed a reaction to the Frontline documentary… “And Bibi’s 2011 Oval Office “lecture”? It was so offensive, so off-putting that it convinced the President and his advisors to permanently disengage from the Palestinian-Israeli peace process? There is no mention then of the administration’s ill-fated efforts in 2013-2014 to seek a permanent resolution to the conflict. Yet during those 18 ultimately fruitless months, it was the Prime minister who agreed to release 100 hardened Palestinian criminals as a good faith effort to restart talks. And it was the Prime Minister – not President Abbas — who ultimately agreed to the American’s proposed framework for moving the talks forward. The film ignores this entire chapter because it sadly didn’t fit with the Administration’s — or the film’s — ultimate narrative.”

Michael Oren to Frontline: “Afterward, the prime minister and the president stroll on the South Lawn for about 20 minutes. I’m at a respectable ambassadorial distance, but they’re having a perfectly congenial talk. The president slaps the prime minister on the back, shakes his hand, says, “Goodbye, my friend.” We go back to the Blair House thinking, OK, we’ve gotten by this. It was unpleasant, but we’ve managed to defuse the crisis. No sooner than we’re back that the headlines blare, for the first time in history, a foreign leader has lectured the president of the United States in the Oval Office. Now, it begs the question whether various parties had an interest in making that a crisis moment.” [PBS]

Dennis Ross to Frontline: “When we begin talking about doing a speech, I suggest that we should share the speech with the Israelis, the draft in advance, because I feel like we can at least get their buy-in. We don’t surprise them. Denis McDonough and Susan Rice immediately jump down my throat and say: “We can’t let the Israelis tell us what we are going to say. We can’t give them a veto over what we are going to say. This is our policy.” To be fair, this kind of constituency has existed in every administration from Truman to today. It is one of the striking things. There is a constituency that has felt that Israel is either a liability to us or they do things that are designed to complicate our position in the region, so for them there is a kind of competitive impulse.”

“The president asked Bibi the question directly, “Why did you react this way?,” Bibi said, “Because you didn’t coordinate with us.” The meeting actually goes pretty well. It’s a one-on-one meeting. The president comes out, and he walks over to me when the meeting is over, and he says, “You were right; we should have coordinated with them.” … I feel that had they met the press at that moment or had they met the press before the meeting, you wouldn’t have had this Bibi lecture to the president.. The president walks Bibi out, and he comes back. At that point I don’t know that he’s happy, but he is not in a bad mood. But immediately everyone pounces on him and says: “Look what he did to you. He lectured you here in your office. It is just outrageous.” [PBS]

PROFILE: “Obama’s Obama: Denis McDonough is the Chief of Staff who came to stay” by Glenn Thrush: “[In ’08] When Hillary Clinton attacked Obama for his “naive” vow to meet with hostile world leaders as president, the shaken candidate buttonholed McDonough to ask whether he should walk the statement back. “No,” was his advice, and Obama stuck with it… When McDonough interviewed with Obama for the job, his vision of the office tracked exactly with Obama’s, tilted toward national security. He told the president that he didn’t want to advise him on domestic policy—that had been a specialty of the four previous chiefs—but that he wanted to give Obama a “square” accounting of alternatives without thumbing the scale.”

“The irony of McDonough’s success is that, given his druthers, Obama would have kept Jack Lew as chief until the end of his term. The bespectacled former hedge fund manager gave him no choice. With the champagne bottles of the 2012 reelection party still in the recycling bin, Lew threatened to return to his native New York if Obama didn’t appoint him to his dream job: Treasury secretary.”

SCOOP: “In 2013, Reid used his open channel to float a proposal—not made public until now—that stunned Obama and his staff. Congress had just passed a funding bill for the joint Pentagon-Israel Iron Dome missile system when Reid fielded a phone call from Sheldon Adelson. Adelson made an offer: He would personally finance $1 billion for Iron Dome batteries, paid through the federal government, so committed was he to safeguarding the Jewish state. “I’ll call the president right away,” an excited Reid told him, according to people with knowledge of the interaction. Obama was thrown off his guard momentarily—“What?!” he asked Reid. When the president regained his footing, he told the leader to thank Adelson but that he didn’t think private financing of munitions would set a good precedent.” [PoliticoMag]

REPORT: “Iran Accuses Saudi Arabia of Missile Attack on Its Embassy in Yemen” [BloombergWashPost]

“Dem Lawmakers Unite in Call to Impose Immediate Sanctions on Iran” by Jacob Kornbluh: “In a letter sent to President Barack Obama, House Representatives Nita Lowey, Eliot Engel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Albio Sires, Gerry Connolly, Susan Davis and Jerry Nadler called for immediate punitive sanctions in response to Iran’s recent violations of UN Security Council resolutions law by conducting two ballistic missile tests.” [JewishInsider]

2016 WATCH: Hillary Clinton writes in the Jewish Journal… “In this time of terrorism and turmoil, the alliance between the United States and Israel is more important than ever. To meet the many challenges we face, we have to take our relationship to the next level.” [JewishJournal]

LongRead: “Is Huma Abedin Hillary Clinton’s Secret Weapon or Her Next Big Problem?” by William Cohan: “After the scandal broke, Clintonworld seemed to go into overdrive to help Huma financially. A key first step was finding the family a new place to live. Thanks to the generosity of Jack Rosen, a longtime Clinton supporter and New York developer, the couple moved into a sunlit, 12th-floor, 2,120-square-foot, four-bedroom apartment in one of Rosen’s buildings, at 254 Park Avenue South. The monthly rent has been estimated to have been at least $12,000. (In an interview, Rosen says the apartment was made available to the couple in part because of his relationship with the Clintons and they paid a market rental rate.)” [VanityFair]

Happening Today: “Clinton’s first-quarter fundraising push kicks off Thursday with three Los Angeles-area events. She headlines a $2,700-per-person event with Warren Buffett, which is being hosted by Karen Mack Goldsmith, a CBS producer, and Russell Goldsmith, the chairman of City National Bank… Next Wednesday, Clinton travels to New York for a fundraiser hosted by David Lichtenstein, CEO of The Lightstone Group, one of the largest privately-owned real-estate companies in the country.” [CNN]

Hillary on North Korea: “I strongly condemn North Korea’s apparent nuclear test. If verified, this is a provocative and dangerous act, and North Korea must have no doubt that we will take whatever steps are necessary to defend ourselves and our treaty allies, South Korea and Japan… And threats like this are yet another reminder of what’s at stake in this election.  We cannot afford reckless, imprudent publicity stunts that risk war.  We need a Commander-in-Chief with the experience and judgement to deal with a dangerous North Korea on Day One.”

“Ted Cruz Uses Possible North Korea Hydrogen Bomb To Criticize Iran Nuclear Deal” by Rosie Gray: “It’s worth remembering that North Korea has a nuclear weapon today because of the Clinton administration,” Cruz said. He criticized Wendy Sherman, a former top State Department official who was the lead negotiator during the Iran talks and also led North Korea negotiations during President Bill Clinton’s administration. “What happens under President Obama and Secretary Clinton? They recruited back Wendy Sherman, the one person on earth who has actually already messed his up once, to be the lead negotiator on the failed Iranian nuclear deal.” [BuzzFeed]

Hugh Hewitt: “North Korea’s GOP wake-up call” [CNN]

Josh Rogin: “The 5 Stages of Reacting to a North Korea Nuke Test” [BloombergView]

Happening Today: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach will host Chris Christie for a conversation on “Foreign Policy, Israel, American Values and the Middle East” in NYC at 7pm.

Headlines: “Rabbi Meir Soloveichik to Serve on Rubio’s Religious Liberty Advisory Board” [JI]

“Bernie Sanders Takes a Bite out of Bible With Attack on ‘Usury'” [Forward] • “Stephen Colbert’s surprisingly good Bernie Sanders impression on ATM fees” [WashPost]

**Good Thursday 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: “George Soros Sees Crisis in Global Markets That Echoes 2008” [Bloomberg] • “Hank Greenberg Gives $10 Million to Super PAC Backing Jeb Bush” [WSJ] • “David Rubenstein makes big bet on McLean legal tech company” [BizJournals] • “Netflix Israel won’t have House of Cards, other hits” [JPost]

STARTUP NATION: “Israel: Start-up nation comes of age” by John Reed: “Until recently Vonetize — like Israel’s other ambitious technology start-ups — would have struggled to muster the funding and overseas marketing muscle needed to see it from the start-up stage into a global expansion. Many, at the first reasonable opportunity, sold out to the highest bidder — typically a US technology or private equity group — and moved on to the next thing. But now, Israel’s technology sector is awash with funds from US, European and Chinese investors scouting for companies that want to grow on their own terms and timetable.” [FinancialTimes]

TALK OF THE VALLEY: “Jewish Tech Guru Slain While Sleeping in Car at Las Vegas Convention: Neil Gandler, 42, was shot by two burglars on Dec. 29 while sleeping in a rented car in a gym lot during a failed robbery attempt. Gandler, a blogger and software entrepreneur living in Palo Alto, California, was in Las Vegas to attend the CES global consumer electronics trade show.” [Forward]

“From An Ancient Rabbi Comes The Secret To Building A Social Network” by Zalmi Duchman: “Don’t reach out to people only when you need something. A large part of being a successful entrepreneur is building a great network. But building and especially maintaining a network is hard work. People are mostly well intentioned and willing to help you, but they want to feel appreciated, and most importantly they don’t want to feel like they are being used. Make sure you’re not reaching out to your network only when you need something—that’s the lesson I took from the Farbrengen.” [Forbes]

SPOTLIGHT: “The World’s Leading Kabbalist, Guru to Billionaires, Is Going to Jail” by Jay Michaelson: “It would be a mistake, though, to lump Pinto in with corrupt televangelists, sex-offending priests, and other wayward clerics. Pinto was responsible for the bribes—that is now a matter of law—but he didn’t give them personally. And Pinto’s organization clearly is filled with unsavory characters—but the rabbi himself appears to lead a modest lifestyle, despite his great wealth… Pinto’s charities have spent millions of dollars on social services, and lavished hundreds of thousands on luxuries for staff. Pinto himself is a mystical sage and a canny operator. As the Kabbalah itself teaches, the good is mixed in with the bad.” [DailyBeast]

HOLLYWOOD: “How Amy Schumer and Her New Boyfriend Are Ingeniously Using the Gossip Industry for Good” [VanityFair]

DESSERT: “This H&M Scarf Looks Just Like a Jewish Prayer Shawl” by Chavie Lieber:“While the H&M scarf is certainly better than Urban Outfitter’s take on Jewish fashion, let’s not forget that the tallit is sacred to many. It’s safe to say such a holy item shouldn’t be knocked off (intentionally or not) for mass consumption.” [Racked]

BIRTHDAYS: Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner turns 70… Ari Mittleman… Rand Paul turns 53…

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