Daily Kickoff: U.S. sailors released from Iran; IRG claims U.S. apologized | SOTU recap | Chemi Shalev on Adam Szubin | Schwarzman says Soros is wrong

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DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “10 U.S. sailors detained by Iran freed” by Barbara Starr and Holly Yan: “The wait for the sailors’ release Wednesday morning dragged on for hours, with Iranian officials interrogating the sailors about their motives and demanding a U.S. apology. “The evidence suggests that they unintentionally entered the Iranian waters because of the failure of their navigational system,” IRGC spokesman Ramazan Sharif said. On Wednesday afternoon, the sailors traveled on their two boats to a rendezvous point in the Persian Gulf, a U.S. official said. They were escorted by Iranian boats, which turned back when they reached the rendezvous point in international waters. The sailors then boarded the guided missile cruiser USS Anzio, where they were undergoing medical checks Wednesday.” [CNNNYTimes• Picture of the detained sailors [AP]

Report: “The US has apologised to Iran after 10 American sailors were arrested for entering Iranian waters, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards naval forces has said” [BBC]

Statement from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter: “I am pleased that ten U.S. Navy sailors have departed Iran and are now back in U.S. hands. I want to personally thank Secretary of State John Kerry for his diplomatic engagement with Iran to secure our sailors’ swift return. Around the world, the U.S. Navy routinely provides assistance to foreign sailors in distress, and we appreciate the timely way in which this situation was resolved.”

Josh Rogin and Eli Lake: “The Iranians know the Obama administration is committed to preserving the Iran deal above all else and they are using that knowledge to get away with mischief, Jeffrey said. Miller said the Obama administration is so committed to claiming the Iran deal as part of its legacy, officials won’t reverse course and take a tougher line now.” [BloombergView]

Joe Scarborough: “Hey Iran, you have exactly 300 days left to push a US president around. Enjoy it while you can. After that, there will be hell to pay.” [Twitter]

SOTU RECAP: Highlights from President Obama’s final State of the Union address — “I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air. Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close.”

“As we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war.”… “American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world – except when we kill terrorists; or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right. It means seeing our foreign assistance as part of our national security, not charity.” [CSPANTranscript]

Behind the Scenes at the SOTU — by Jake Sherman: “Just hours before Obama’s speech, news broke that the Iranians were holding 10 U.S. sailors, so, of course, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry were being watched closely. They didn’t disappoint. Kerry had an animated talk with U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power. And Carter seemed to have an extended talk with military brass seated on the House floor… Seated in the back of the House chamber with the diplomatic corps was Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, who helped orchestrate Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial address to Congress in which he tried to derail Obama’s deal with the Iranians.” [Politico]

SOTU Tweets: @IsaacDovere — “word that is not in Obama’s State of the Union once: Israel” [Twitter]

After President Obama began with “So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that we as a country have to answer”… @JeffreyGoldberg tweeted “Marco Rubio, as the youngest-looking senator, should get to ask the Four Questions.” [Twitter]

Hayes Brown: “People Really Aren’t Happy With Obama’s Version Of Middle Eastern History: The idea that the Middle East’s troubles are “rooted in conflicts that date back millennia” didn’t go over too well on Twitter.” [BuzzFeed]

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley delivered the Republican response: “If we held the White House, we would make international agreements that are celebrated in Israel and protested in Iran, not the other way around.” [CSPAN]

Jonathan Chait: “Obama Uses State of the Union To Rebut Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio Along with Donald Trump” [NYMag]

“Cruz Would Invite Netanyahu to First SOTU” by Jacob Kornbluh: “Speaking at a town hall meeting in Londonderry, New Hampshire Tuesday evening, Cruz shifted his stump speech from Day One promises to a preview of his 2018 State of the Union address. In his address to Congress, Cruz said he would say he is “pleased today to welcome in the gallery Prime Minister Netanyahu.” [JewishInsider]

@Safier jokes: “Not to be outdone, Rubio says that he would ask Netanyahu to give the State of the Union Address” [Twitter]

Rubio pledges Israel trip would be first presidential visit abroad: “At a town hall meeting in Florida on Monday, Rubio was asked what his first foreign trip as president would be, Jewish Insider reported. “Israel,” the Florida senator said to loud applause.” [JTA]

“Paul Singer tries to gather big donors for Rubio in Iowa” by Anna Palmer: “The campaign sent a blast email from the hedge fund manager, inviting supporters to a “national event” on Jan. 26. “Marco’s fundraising time in January is extremely limited. It is critical we find ways to raise funds while he is on the campaign trail,” Singer wrote.” [Politico]

TOP TALKER: “Koch Executive Disputes Book’s Account of Founder’s Role in Nazi Refinery” by Nicholas Confessore: “A senior executive of Koch Industries sent a letter on Tuesday to the company’s employees disputing a new book about the Kochs and other conservative families, saying it significantly exaggerated the role of the company’s founder, Fred C. Koch, in constructing an important refinery for the Nazi regime in Germany.” [FirstDraft]

SCENE YESTERDAY: Around 60 guests of the Hudson Institute gathered for an off-the-record lunch with Dr. Dore Gold, Director-General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, in Hudson’s D.C. office. The conversation was moderated by Hudson’s Mike Doran and, uncommon for D.C. think tank events, featured an exclusively kosher lunch with OU-certified corned beef, pastrami and roast beef sandwichesfrom Char Bar. Spotted: Israeli Amb. Ron Dermer, Hudson’s Ken Weinstein, Rob Satloff, Nathan Diament, Josh Block, Dan Arbell, William Luti, Aaron Segui, Margaret Whitehead, David Tell, Adam Kredo, Michael Makovsky, Michael Pregent, Hillel Fradkin, Lior Weintraub.

Chemi Shalev: “When GOP Obstructionism Trumps the Fight Against Iran and ISIS: I don’t know Adam Szubin from Adam, but I can understand why Iran might feel uncomfortable with his appointment as Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. Szubin was not only an architect of the sanctions regime that brought the Iranian economy to its knees and its leaders to the negotiating table, he is also an Orthodox Jew and a self-professed supporter of Israel. “I have very strong pro-Israel feelings,” he recently said, on record.”

“Szubin studied at Manhattan’s Ramaz school, a bastion of mostly right-wing Modern Orthodoxy; he spent his gap year after high school and before Harvard at Yeshivat Har Etzion, beyond the Green Line and deep inside the universe of Israeli settlers; and he chose to devote his Fulbright scholarship to researching messianic tendencies in the Chabad movement.” [Haaretz]

Sheila Kugel: “Facebook and Israel: What’s Not to ‘Like’? Lots, It Seems: An experiment: Make one anti-Israel page and one anti-Palestinian page. Wait to see what happens.” [WSJ] • Interesting WSJ correction: “Ms. Botfeld is a writer and researcher with the pro-Israel organization StandWithUS. An earlier version was published under the pen name Sheila Kugel with an incomplete author identification. Ms. Botfeld did not inform us that Sheila Kugel was a pen name until after the article was published.”

“Airbnb lists properties in illegal Israeli settlements” by Kate Shuttleworth and Julia Carrie Wong: “Airbnb is listing dozens of properties located in Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land as being inside the state of Israel, raising questions about the technology platform’s legal position in profiting from rentals on the land.” [TheGuardian]

**Good Wednesday 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: “Blackstone boss Stephen Schwarzman says George Soros’ claim that the global economy is in danger of repeating the global ­financial crisis is wrong” [TheAustralian] • “Argentina Seeks to End Dispute With Creditors Including U.S. Hedge Funds Such As Elliott Management” [WSJ] • “Relativity Names 275 Entities It Could Sue If Court Approves $2.5M Litigation Fund” [DeadlineHollywoodReporter• “Mark Cuban’s Financial Advice For Eventual Winner Of Powerball Jackpot” [Forbes] • “Hotelier Aby Rosen Turns Over a New Leaf With SoHo Project” [WSJ]

LongRead: “Mr. (Swipe) Right?” by Nellie Bowles: “When Barry Diller, the founder of the media company IAC, comes downstairs for breakfast at the Carlyle in New York, the waiter brings him tea and a single fried egg. The charming 73-year-old billionaire has just spun Match Group out of IAC as a public company, and he is pleased with the result… But there’s a strange crown jewel in his new empire, a company whose name sounds out of place in the gold-plated luxury of the Carlyle’s dining room: Tinder. The hookup app is helmed by CEO Sean Rad, who has himself earned a controversial reputation. “I think (…and fervently hope) that there won’t be a new piece on Rad for the next twenty or so years,” Diller wrote me… Rad, a handsome 29-year-old from a wealthy Persian family in Bel Air, has become one of the most divisive figures in tech today — much like his company.” [CaliforniaSunday]

TRANSITIONS: “America’s Voices in Israel Taps David Schizer, Dean Emeritus of Columbia Law School, as its New President: “We are delighted that David Schizer will be assuming the presidency of America’s Voices in Israel, joining Chairman George Rohr,” said Malcolm Hoenlein.”

Birthright Israel Promotes Elizabeth Sokolsky To Executive Director of North America: “As the top deputy to Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark in North America, Sokolsky will supervise trip registration, operations, pre-trip orientation, trip recruitment strategy and the Birthright Israel Fellows leadership program. Sokolsky will also serve as a liaison to the organization’s fundraising arm, Birthright Israel Foundation.”

President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals as Members of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council: “Norman Eisen, is a Visiting Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, a position he has held since 2014.  He served as U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic from 2011 to 2014.”… “Dr. Ethel Brooks, is an Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Sociology at Rutgers University, where she has held various positions since 2001.”… “Sara Darehshori, is Senior Counsel for the U.S. Program at Human Rights Watch, a position she has held since 2011.  Ms. Darehshori was also Senior Counsel for the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, a position she held from 2005 to 2011.”

BIRTHDAYS: Heidi Krizer Daroff, aka @IDFfan… Bruce Maclver (h/t William Daroff)… Barry Stein… Kathleen Chambers… AIPAC’s Jersey Brown, a German Shepherd/Jack Russel Terrier Mix, turns 10 (h/t Tara Brown)…

** A Message from Shabbat 2016: This edition of JI is proudly presented by “Shabbat 2016,” a pair of bipartisan Friday night dinners in Iowa (1/22) and New Hampshire (1/29) for campaign staffers, volunteers, and journalists on the trail. While there are many things that can divide us, we know that one thing can help unite us: Friday night! You can register here — and please pass on the info to folks in the early states. Hope to see you there! **

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