Daily Kickoff: Netanyahu at Davos | Rove & Axelrod on the race for the White House | Michael Douglas & Natan Sharansky to talk Israel on college tour

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DAVOS SCENE — From VPOTUS Pool Report: “Vice President Biden is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his first of five bilats today. Pool entered the room at the Intercontinental at 8:50am. VPOTUS and Mr. Netanyahu were standing in front of Israeli and American flags. The two of them were a bit stiffer than the bilat photo-ops pool witnessed last night. The whole thing lasted about 30 seconds. Participants from the Israeli delegation included Eli Groner, Gen. Jacob Nagel, Gen. Eliezer Toledano, and Dr. Jonathan Schachter. VP Biden’s delegation included Colin Kahl, Amos Hochstein, and Kate Bedingfield. [Pic]

Yesterday, “Prime Minister Netanyahu met in Davos with HP CEO Meg Whitman… expressed his appreciation for HP’s connection with Israel and reviewed the many reasons why technology cooperation, especially in cyber, was worthwhile. Before his meeting with Meg Whitman, Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick.” [Facebook]

Today, “the Israeli Prime Minister will also meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Argentine President Mauricio Macri and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Prime Minister Netanyahu will hold a public dialogue, on the World Economic Forum’s main stage, with senior CNN correspondent Fareed Zakaria.” [Livestream]

HEARD LAST NIGHT: Leading Democratic strategist David Axelrod and Republican mastermind Karl Rove discussed the key issues driving the 2016 race for the White House, and how the election results may affect issues critical to the Jewish community, during a panel at the Temple Emanu-El Skirball Center in New York City. Jeff Zucker, President of CNN Worldwide, served as moderator.

Both Axelrod and Rove agreed that while Cruz is eligible to run for president, Trump was clever to bring up his birth in Canada, according to a recording obtained by Jewish Insider. They also predicted that Cruz will win Iowa, although Rove raised the possibility of Cruz losing over the birther issue and Palin’s endorsement by shifting a few points to Trump… Rove: “Trump could win the nomination, I don’t think he will. The voters he’s drawing may be angry and upset. On the other hand, they are, by definition,  less active-partisan, they take in less information and are less likely to participate.”

Axelrod on Christie: “Those of you who are from New Jersey, your governor doesn’t live there anymore.” Rove: “He lives on a bus that is moving between Keene and Manchester.”

Who’s worse for the GOP, Trump or Cruz? (Axelrod jokes: “We as Jews look at the worst case scenario) Rove: “I don’t know; both of them would be bad. We would lose the Senate and both of them would lose the election. My sense is it would be slightly better under Cruz because he’s at least somewhat predictable. Axelrod: “Trump is by far more unpopular among general election voters than Cruz. The only wildcard is that Trump can easily shed his skin after he has secured the nomination and reposition himself. Cruz has a theory that there are enough whiter conservatives out there, who haven’t participated, that if he would just mobilize them he would win the election. I don’t think that is right.”

Was Barbara Bush right when she said the country doesn’t need another [Jeb] Bush? Rove: “I’ve known Mrs. Bush for a long time, and everything Barbara Bush says is absolutely right… Jeb is the smartest guy on our side. He’s the most accomplished person on our side. He was a strongly conservative governor in a purple state. I’m not going to count him out yet. Weird things can still happen. Axelrod: “I like Jeb Bush. You know, I would love to have an election where you wake up the next day and say, you’re disappointed with the results but you’re not checking flights to some other country. He takes governing seriously. But, sometimes you think, he’s applying for the job and not running for the job.” Zucker: “What’s wrong with Jeb?” Rove: “It’s the exclamation point (laughter).”

Rove on why he aired negative ad in Iowa that slams Hillary for taking more money from Wall Street: “Iowa is a battleground state. Everybody is paying attention and the fundamental message is she’s not trustworthy. We wanted to be in the dialogue while people are out there… Hillary was stupid to mention it during the debate, drawing far more attention to it.” Axelrod: “I suspect that you may get a shekel or two from Wall Street to run such an ad.” Rove: “Those would be dollars, not shekels – it’s illegal to make a contribution in a foreign currency. (laughter)” Rove: “Hillary might make a good president but she is a terrible candidate.”

Why there seems to be less attention given to Bernie Sanders’ Jewish faith in the press?Axelrod: “I actually think we’ve made progress on that end and it’s something we should acknowledge.. [Joe] Lieberman reached a milestone, but I really think we’ve moved beyond that. Sometimes the things to celebrate are the things that are no longer worthy.”

Karl Rove Tweets: “Getting ready to debate David Axelrod for @jewishlearning & they have cake w/ our pics!” [Twitter]

DAVOS POLL: “Clinton or Trump? How Executives at Davos See Their Chances” by Khadeeja Safdar: “At the end of a luncheon for The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council in Davos, Switzerland, the approximately 40 top executives were asked: Show of hands, how many of you expect Donald Trump to be the next president? No hands. How many of you expect Hillary Clinton to be the next president? Nearly every hand in the room shot up.” [WSJ]

“In Race Defined by Income Gap, Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street Ties Incite Rivals” by Nicholas Confessore and Jason Horowitz: “The new attacks strike at what even some allies believe may be one Mrs. Clinton’s biggest vulnerabilities: not her positions on financial regulation, but her personal relationships with Wall Street executives, along with the millions of dollars Mrs. Clinton, her husband, and their family foundation have accepted in speaking fees or charitable contributions from banks, hedge funds and asset managers… On Wednesday, the group American Crossroads escalated its attacks, targeting Mrs. Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, who in her 20s worked for a New York-based hedge fund run by a Clinton friend and campaign donor, Marc Lasry.” [NYTimes]

Rob Eshman on 2016: “But let’s forgive Cruz his hypocrisy. He’s a politician. Trump spent last week pretending to evangelicals at Liberty University he knows the difference between Corinthians and corned beef. Marco Rubio twisted the English language in knots explaining how isolating Cuba is good for average Cubans. Bernie Sanders was against gun control before he was for it. And Hillary Clinton is so anti-Wall Street firms, she is taking away all their money — $300,000 at a time, in speakers fees.” [JewishJournal]

Hillary Clinton on NPR: “And in some of the comments that Sen. Sanders has been making, there is room for disagreement, even concern. Take his comments about Iran. I know something about this; I led the efforts to put together the coalition to impose very tough sanctions on Iran, which enabled us to get to the negotiating table to get the Iran agreement to put a lid on their nuclear weapons program. So, I’m immersed in what it will take for us, going forward, to manage this challenging relationship.”

“Sen. Sanders has said he would like to see Iranian troops in Syria. I think that would be a terrible mistake; Syria is on the doorstep of Israel, just among one of the reasons why it would be…  I think that — when he said in the debate the other night that he wouldn’t, uh, would favor normalizing relations with Iran, that, too, was a fundamental misunderstanding of what it takes to do the patient diplomacy that I have experience in to be able to continue to change behavior, or at least to mitigate against behavior by Iran. President Obama doesn’t believe we should be moving to normalize relations with Iran; neither do I.”[NPR]

New Bernie Sanders ad: “As president, I will defend this nation but I will do it responsibly. I voted against the war in Iraq and that was the right vote. We must never forget the lessons of that experience.” [YouTube]

“Trump’s 19th Century Foreign Policy” by Thomas Wright: “His views aren’t as confused as they seem. In fact, they’re remarkably consistent—and they have a long history.” [PoliticoMag]

Lindsey Graham campaigning for Jeb in New Hampshire: “The one thing I can tell you about Jeb Bush: When it comes to those who serve, he will have their backs,” Graham said. “When it comes to our enemies, he will be their worst nightmare. When it comes to our friends like Israel, they can go to sleep at night knowing that America is back as an ally.” [Politico]

TALK OF THE TRAIL: “Iran Nuclear Deal Debate Flares Up in Tight Senate Races” by Kristina Peterson: “Many House and Senate Democrats agonized this summer over whether to support a deal opposed by many Jewish voters and top Israeli officials, who worried the release of as much as $100 billion in Iranian oil money frozen in overseas accounts could be used to fund terrorism against Israel. They did so reluctantly and have pressed the administration to hold Iran’s feet to the fire.”

“In this year’s contest for control of the Senate, Republicans are defending more than twice as many seats as Democrats. Still, several Democratic House members running to unseat GOP Senate incumbents voted for the Iran deal in the House, including Rep. Tammy Duckworth in Illinois and Florida Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson. Other Democratic challengers, including Russ Feingold in Wisconsin and Ted Strickland in Ohio, have said they support the deal. Of the seven Senate Democrats running for re-election this year, six supported the deal, with Mr. Bennet expected to face the most competitive general election.” [WSJ]

“Wendy Long considers a challenge to Chuck Schumer” by Jimmy Vielkind: “Wendy Long, a conservative lawyer who ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012, has begun talking to Republican leaders about challenging U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer this November.” [CapitalNY]

“Pro-Israel group blasts Cory Booker for State of the Union guest” by Terrence McDonald: “Morton A. Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, said it is “appalling” that Booker, D-NJ, would invite Ahmed Shedeed, president of the Islamic Center of Jersey City, to Washington, D.C., last week. Shedeed is part of a group that rallied in 2013 in support of the Muslim Brotherhood after Egypt’s military removed it from power…

Booker spokesman Tom Pietrykoski defended the move. “When the senator and members of our team asked New Jersey faith leaders and local officials who should be invited to the State of the Union as a response to the recent toxicity of our political discourse, one after another pointed to Ahmed Shedeed, praising him for working with the FBI, the U.S. military, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security, local law enforcement and people of all faiths – including the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities – to bring people together and build bridges of tolerance and mutual understanding.”[JerseyJournal]

Booker on his recent trip to Israel: “I left Israel with a sense of gratitude from Israelis for the work going on in the region between our two countries and respect for Israel’s own capabilities, and a deep commitment to use my capabilities every day to take aggressive responses to any threats Israel has, particularly from Iran,” Booker told NJJN in a Jan. 15 phone interview.” [NJJN]

TOP TALKER: “Jonathan Pollard Wins Meeting With Jewish Leaders — Gets Shabbat-Friendly Monitoring Bracelet” by Nathan Guttman: “Pollard, who was released from prison in November after serving 30 years of his life sentence, will speak to members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations in New York. One purpose of the meeting, according to two sources informed about the event, is to discuss the status of Pollard’s legal battle to further ease his parole conditions. Also participating in the meeting will be Reps. Jerry Nadler and Eliot Engel.”

“In an unusual move, the Conference of Presidents informed member organizations of the event with Pollard by phone, instead of the usual email exchange usually used to communicate with members. One official speculated this was done in hopes of preventing news of the meeting from being leaked, a tactic that failed.” [Forward]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: “Check Point Takes on Car Hackers With Help of Israeli Startup” [Bloomberg] • “Sheryl Sandberg: The best way to fight hate groups online is with ‘like attacks'” [BusinessInsider] • “Estee Lauder’s granddaughter encourages women to get involved” [MiamiHerald] • “Carlyle’s David Rubenstein: PE Firms Need to Accept Lower Fees” [WSJ] • “15 Israeli Startups to Watch in 2016” [Inc]

SPOTLIGHT: “Oscar Health Raising Giant Funding Round led by Fidelity” by Dan Primack:“Oscar Health, the health insurance startup with more than 125,000 members, is in the midst of raising new financing that could value it at upwards of $3 billion. The New York-based company ― co-founded by venture capitalist Joshua Kushner ― previously raised over $300 million. Oscar was founded in 2013 to provide consumers with health insurance via new markets created by Obamacare.” [FortuneBusinessInsider]

HOLLYWOOD: “Michael Douglas Taking Jewish Pride On The Road” by Gary Rosenblatt: “A gracious, relaxed host, Douglas, 71, still seems a bit in awe of his sudden and highly public ascendance in Jewish life after decades far removed from it. About to embark on a cross-country speaking tour at three college campuses (co-sponsored by the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Genesis Prize Foundation and Hillel) with Natan Sharansky, the iconic symbol of the Soviet Jewry movement, Douglas reflected on his unlikely, controversial and personally meaningful Jewish journey over the last several years.” [JewishWeek• “Douglas, Sharansky to Talk Israel, Jewish Inclusion on Campus Tour” [JI]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Exodus Refugee Ship Flag Finds Safe Haven at Holocaust Museum” by Eric Lichtblau: “In a lab at the museum reserved for special artifacts, Mr. Silverstein watched intently as a white-gloved curator unfurled the contents of the box, which he and his brother, Tom, were donating. Inside was a blue-and-white flag that once flew on the mast of the Exodus, a ship memorialized in book and film after the British turned it away from Palestine in 1947 with 4,500 Holocaust survivors and other refugees on board. The survivors, including about 1,000 children, had to return to Germany.” [NYTimes]

“How the Last Surviving Nazis Could Be Brought to Justice” by Eliza Gray and Simon Shuster: “Hubert Zafke, a 95-year-old former member of the Nazi SS who served as a medic at the Auschwitz concentration camp, is the latest to be prosecuted in a push by German authorities to hold the last living Nazis accountable for the Holocaust. But so many years after the fact, the pursuit of justice in such cases is far more complicated than merely bringing a suspect to court. In fact, the legal precedent that allows such cases is less than a decade old.” [TimeMag]

SPORTS BLINK: “Patriots Wide Receiver: Anticipation of Playing Football Is Like Waiting to Open Hanukkah Gifts: In his return from injury, Julian Edelman felt the magic of Hanukkah, then tore up his opponent” [TabletMag]

BIRTHDAYS: Philanthropist Lynn Schusterman turns 77… CNN’s Sam Feist… Israeli American film director Oren Peli turns 46… Elaine Showalter (born Elaine Cottler) turns 75…

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