Daily Kickoff: Meet Bloomberg’s band of aides organizing a potential bid | Alex Soros interview | Amy Holtz named CEO of Israeli-Diaspora Initiative

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WSJ A1: “Iran President Visits Europe to Seal Post-Sanctions Deals Worth Billions” by Stacey Meichtry and Robert Wall: “Rouhani landed in Rome on Monday on his first overseas trip since the European Union lifted sanctions on Jan. 16 in return for Tehran’s implementation of key restrictions on its nuclear program. The trip will take Mr. Rouhani from Vatican City—marking the first meeting between an Iranian president and a pope since 1999—to the gilded halls of Paris’s Élysée Palace. Italian and Iranian companies signed deals valued at about €17 billion ($18.36 billion) late Monday ahead of a formal dinner between Mr. Rouhani and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.” [WSJNewYorker]

“State Dept. Denies U.S. and Iran Are Looking to Establish Direct Flights” by Elias Groll:“On Sunday, reports swirled in the Iranian media that Tehran and Washington were in talks to establish direct commercial flights between their respective countries, a move that would have broken down a major wall between the longtime adversaries. On Monday, though, the Obama administration denied that such negotiations were underway and downplayed the possibility of opening direct air travel between Iran and the United States anytime soon.” [TheCable]

“Iran Still a Leading Executioner of Minors, Report Says” by Rick Gladstone: “Iran is one of the leading executioners of juvenile offenders, despite its improved legal protections for children and a pledge more than two decades ago to end the death penalty for convicts younger than 18, Amnesty International said Monday. The report casts doubt on laws meant to improve children’s rights in Iran in the past few years.” [NYTimes]

HEARD YESTERDAY — at Des Moines Jewish Federation: “Hillary Clinton pledges support for Israel, close eye on Iran” by Tony Leys: “Hillary Clinton vowed Monday to stand with Israel, including by making sure Iran abides by its promise not to build nuclear bombs. Clinton, speaking to about 150 people in a small auditorium, stressed her experience as Secretary of State and as a U.S. senator. She didn’t mention her main Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, but she alluded to her sales pitch as a more broadly experienced candidate. “We need a president who understands and can do all parts of the job,” she said.” [DesMoinesRegisterJI

Hillary on Abbas and the Palestinian leadership: “I will say this about Abu Mazen. Even when Arafat was still alive, he was an advocate of a two-state solution. And I was the last person to hold meetings between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas… But there is no successor right now and the continuing struggle between the Palestinian leadership and Hamas is the defining relationship in determining what will happen to the Palestinians going forward. Despite all of the problems, the Abbas administration has never stopped cooperation with Israel on security, even when there had been outbursts of terrorism; even when Hamas has tried to provoke such a breach. So, I think we have to take this day by day. I don’t think we should be trying to move something forward that the consequence of which we cannot determine.” Full video of the speech and Q&A [YouTube]

Lighter Moment: During her prepared remarks, Hillary took a water break, in what some are calling a ‘Marco Rubio moment’, noting that “you do talk a lot in this campaign.” She then asked David Adelman, President of the Greater Des Moines Federation, to start talking while she regained her voice. Displaying some impressive improv skills, David joked about starting a new fundraising campaign for the Federation. “Well, we’re starting the all-in-one campaign (laughter). Pledge cards will be by the door.” [VideoDailyMail]

INTERVIEW with David Hirsh — an undecided Orthodox Jewish voter from West Des Moines and author of Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason: What did you think of Hillary’s speech today? “It was an impressive speech. She has terrific command of the issues and can name drop without seeming to name drop cause she’s met all the players.” Are you planning to support her on Caucus night? “I caucused for her eight years ago and haven’t made up my mind this year.”

What are the main issues that determine who you support? “It’s a difficult year. She’s the same person she was eight years ago but the world is different. The other candidates are different… Had I asked her a question today, my question would have been what would she have done differently as president over the past seven years as it relates to foreign policy? It’s kind of a soft question but a hard question… They all tell you what you want to hear. For instance, nobody gave a better speech before AIPAC than President Obama did when he was a candidate but when you look at that speech, and look what has happened in the Middle East, I don’t think he meant what he said.”

Of all your years participating in the Iowa Caucuses, who has been your favorite candidate? “Scoop Jackson. He was straightforward. He was a conservative democrat. Conservative democrats are as rare as liberal republicans are now and the nation and politics were friendlier then and what Secretary Clinton said about the hostility and viciousness of today’s soundbites is absolutely true. We need to get back to the facts and civility.” [YouTube]

HEARD LAST NIGHT — at CNN’s Town Hall: Sanders challenged the argument that he lacks the foreign policy experience Hillary has: “Secretary Clinton was Secretary of State of this country for four years. That is a lot of experience. There’s no debate about that. I was not Secretary of State. But, experience is important and judgement is also important… Dick Cheney had a lot of experience too. His policies with regard to foreign affairs were an absolute disaster. So, experience is important, but it is not the only thing. And, I would urge people to check out my views on foreign policy, how we deal with ISIS, and I think they will make a lot of sense to the people of Iowa, and the people of our country.”

Shmuel Rosner: “Sanders and Israel: Please say something” [JewishJournal]

Ari Paul: “Don’t Worry, Bernie — Being Jewish Won’t Hurt You in Iowa” [Forward]

SCOOP: “Ben & Jerry’s founder unveils new ‘Bernie’s Yearning’ ice cream flavor” by Nick Gass and Kenneth Vogel: “Supporters of Bernie Sanders could soon sample the sweet taste of victory, not only in Iowa and New Hampshire, but also from a pint from one of Vermont’s most famous ice-cream makers, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s. The brand itself, however, disavows any connection with the creation. Ben Cohen, one of the co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and a longtime Sanders supporter, has for months talked about making a special flavor for his home-state senator.” [Politico

Jennifer Rubin: “The Chelsea Clinton fundraiser that should worry Hillary’s pro-Israel backers” [WashPost]

“Donald Trump Aspired To Be President John Kerry’s Envoy To The Middle East” by Andrew Kaczynski: “According to the Trump biography No Such Thing as Over-Exposure: Inside the Life and Celebrity of Donald Trump (which Trump is so fond of he sells in the lobby of Trump Tower), Kerry said to Trump: “You know how to negotiate. You’d be the best person to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict.” Trump, volunteering his services, said, “It would take me two weeks to get an agreement.” [BuzzFeed]

“Bush gets endorsement of former Minnesota Sen. Coleman” by Nolan McCaskill: “If you’re just being angry — if you want someone to mirror your anger, then, you know, Donald Trump may be your guy,” Coleman said on Fox News’ “Happening Now.” “But if you want someone to fix the problem that is making you angry, then Jeb Bush is your guy.” [Politico]

“Bloomberg’s potential bid organized by familiar band of aides” by Dana Rubinstein:“According to the sources, who described the makeup of the proto-campaign on condition of anonymity, Bloomberg’s former City Hall deputy Howard Wolfson is helping to lead the exploratory effort, along with Bradley Tusk, who managed Bloomberg’s last re-election campaign, and Kevin Sheekey, a former deputy mayor who has all but made it his life’s mission to get Bloomberg on the presidential ticket… Bloomberg’s former City Hall spokesmen Stu Loeser and Marc Lavorgna have effectively started work already, handling the deluge of press inquiries that flowed in after the Times report.” [CapitalNY]

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo tells Jewish Insider: “Michael Bloomberg is a friend. He was the mayor at the same time I was governor – we overlapped. I’ve known him for a long time. I think he’s a good man. I support Hillary Clinton for president; I worked with her for eight years in Washington. I’ve watched her as Senator of New York. I think she’s supremely qualified to be president of the United States. I think she is going to win, and I think that’s going to be a good thing for the country. But I wish Michael nothing but the best.” [JewishInsider]

SCENE YESTERDAY: “The challenges the United States of America is facing in dealing with global terror requires it to forge an even stronger and bolder alliance with Israel, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday. The New York Governor’s remarks were given at the launch of the Mort Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program, a transformative initiative designed to support future generations of leaders in science, technology, engineering and math in the United States and Israel, at the Harvard Club in New York City.” [DailyNews]

Recounting his trip to Israel with Zuckerman in the summer of 2014, Cuomo joked: “It was actually the first time in many years Mort actually flew commercial to go to Israel, and that in and of itself was something.” [JIYouTube]

SPOTTED: Nobel Laureates Dr. Richard Axel, Dr. Aaron Ciechanover, Dr. Eric R. Kandel, Dr. Ada Yonath, Israeli Consul Gen. Ido Aharoni, Malcolm Hoenlein, Stephen Greenberg, David Lobl, Brian Kelly, Joel Klein, Meryl Tisch, Tina Brown, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, Prof. Peretz Lavie. Prof. Joseph Klafter, Prof. Daniel Zajifman, Ofra Preuss, Dr. Craig Thompson, Bill Holiber, James Rich, Kathryn Wylde and Eric Gertler.

TOP TALKER: “Jonathan Pollard Meets Jewish Leaders — Blames Forward Scoop for Scuttling Speech” by Josh Nathan-Kazis: “Jonathan Pollard, the convicted Israeli spy who was recently freed from prison, met with top Jewish leaders Monday — but blamed his failure to deliver a full speech on the Forward’s scoop about the meeting. Pollard’s lawyers feared that anything more expansive than a few remarks could be used against the former spy and send him to jail. Pollard remains on parole… Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Presidents Conference, confirmed that a meeting had taken place, but questioned Justice for Jonathan Pollard’s decision to put out a release.” [Forward]

**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: “Bill Ackman’s hedge fund sues CWCapital for $500M over Stuy Town” [RealDeal] • “Paulson Pledges Personal Holdings to Back Firm After Assets Fall” [Bloomberg] • “Oscar parent Mulberry Health authorizes sale of $400M in new stock” [BizJournals] • “Half of Israel’s Investment Billions Headed Abroad, Psagot Says” [Bloomberg]

SPOTLIGHT: “Democratic Financier George Soros Invested In Firearm Companies While Backing Gun Control Groups” by Andrew Perez: “He is not alone among Democratic Party supporters in investing in the firearms industry. Many of the biggest Wall Street donors to President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — who have both called for stricter gun regulations — are among the largest institutional investors in guns and ammunition manufacturers. While the American Federation of Teachers, a key part of the Democratic electoral coalition, has backed gun control proposals, some of the pension savings of its members may be invested in the firearms industry.” [IBTimes]

INTERVIEW: “Alexander Soros: Man On Fire” by Miguel Forbes: “Please tell us what inspired you to start your own foundation? Alexander Soros: At an early age, my parents instilled in me the value of giving back to the society that had made their success possible. My parents also never let us forget that, as Jews, we were minorities and that we should remember that our safety was predicated upon certain values that we had to fight for, not only on behalf of Jews but also on the behalf of all disenfranchised peoples. As I look back on it now, it was less a question of why I would start contributing my money and my time to causes I was passionate about and more a question of when.” [Forbes]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “How a Muslim-Jewish romance shaped one of India’s biggest pharma firms” by Kenneth Robbins: “In 1992, the editor of The Times of India telephoned one of Mumbai’s most prominent businessmen—Yusuf K Hamied. The editor asked Yusuf, “as a Muslim leader”, his opinion on communal riots that were taking place in the city. “Why aren’t you asking me as an Indian Jew? Because my name is Hamied? My mother was Jewish,” Yusuf replied. His maternal grandparents perished in the Holocaust. Yusuf, chairman of one of India’s largest pharmaceutical firms, is the son of an aristocratic Muslim scientist from India and a Jewish Communist from what is now Lithuania.” [Quartz]

SPORTS BLINK: “Israelis going too far in backlash toward LeBron James over David Blatt firing” by Joe Vardon: “Israeli sports journalist Sharon Davidovitch said “LeBron James is now the most hated person in Israel. “It’s a little bit joking and a little bit true: These days I can only compare the Israeli hate for LeBron James to the hate for Hamas,” Davidovitch said.” [Cleveland]

TRANSITION: “The Israel-Diaspora Initiative today announced Amy Holtz as its Chief Executive Officer. Holtz brings decades of success and experience e to her new role. The Israel-Diaspora Initiative, whose formal name will be announced in the near future, will initially focus on programs with proven success in Jewish identity building, including summer camps, teen trips to Israel, college campus engagement, service learning and career building. One-third of the funds will come from the Government of Israel and the rest will come from philanthropists and the organized Jewish world.” [PressRelease]

BIRTHDAYS: Former Obama White House Jewish Liaison Jarrod Bernstein turns 36… Tamar Remz, Director of Partnerships at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation… Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Jules Feiffer turns 87… Benjamin Newton (yesterday)…

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