Daily Kickoff: Rubio, Cruz hit Trump for defying GOP litmus test on Israel | Sanders mentions his Judaism | Philly developers face anti-Semitic taunts

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DRIVING THE DAY: “Iran Elections Seen as Referendum on Benefits of Nuclear Deal” by Asa Fitch and Jay Solomon: “Iran’s first elections since last year’s nuclear deal are set to be a referendum on President Hassan Rouhani’s efforts to mend ties with the West—and an early verdict on the Obama administration’s gamble on engagement. Iranians vote Friday on candidates for the 290-member parliament and the 88-member Assembly of Experts, a clerical body responsible for selecting the supreme leader.” [WSJWashPost]

Eli Lake: “Obama’s Plan to Aid Iranian Moderates Failed Spectacularly” [BloombergView]

“Nuclear Deal in Place, Iran Is Testing New Missiles and Doubling Down in Syria” by Dan De Luce, Elias Groll: “Tehran is wagering the Obama administration is so committed to the nuclear pact that it will look the other way.” [ForeignPolicy]

GOP DEBATE RECAP — FACT CHECK: Ted Cruz — “And I’ll give one more example on Israel. When the Obama administration canceled civilian air flights into Israel, when Hamas was raining rockets down on them, I publicly asked, is this an economic boycott against Israel? The next day Michael Bloomberg, another New York billionaire, got on a plane, a commercial flight, and flew to Israel from London. Together the heat and light that was put on the State Department was so great that within 36 hours they lifted the ban on air flights into Israel.”

We asked and a Bloomberg associate confirmed that the former NYC Mayor flew direct to Israel on El Al from JFK and not from London… and added that Bloomberg flew to Israel the same day the FAA limits were announced and didn’t wait until the next day.

Cruz Senior Advisor Nick Muzin writes from Houston: “Tonight was a great night on our home turf. Kudos to Marco, who did an effective job questioning Trump’s business dealings and lack of substance. Ted then closed the argument by demonstrating that he is the only one on the stage who voters can trust to do what he says he will do, and that he is more electable than Trump. We are looking forward to Super Tuesday, which will turn this into a two person race, and to defeating Trump in the weeks ahead.”

–Cruz’s Kosher After-Party: “Also thrilled to have a large Jewish contingent at the after-party, which featured kosher food from Genesis Steakhouse. In attendance: Steven & Stephanie Mitzner, Ben & Batya Klein, Rabbi Zev & Chana Reichman, David Goder, Ari Munk, and others.”

Rubio Bundler Aryeh Lightstone: “Marco delivered his strongest debate at the most critical time in this primary season, especially for voters concerned about foreign policy. Marco demonstrated again he is the only candidate who can be elected in November, with an unambiguous pro-Israel platform. He had substance and style and a smile, and demonstrated that Rubio’s Republican Party is the future of the conservative movement.”

Kasich Supporter Brad Kasten: “Gov Kasich demonstrated, once again, that on the issues surrounding foreign policy, immigration, the economy and security he is the most experienced and thoughtful candidate. I am guessing that that is why he leads Hillary Clinton head to head in the polls by bigger margins than the other candidates. I think the rest of the country understands why those who know him the best are supporting him the strongest.”

“Kasich takes centrist tone on religious freedom” by Hadas Gold: “If you’re in the business of selling things, if you’re not going to sell to somebody you don’t agree, okay, today I’m not going to sell to somebody who’s gay, and tomorrow maybe I won’t sell to somebody who’s divorced. If you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce. That’s my view,” Kasich said. “And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle, say a prayer for them when they leave and hope they change their behavior,” Kasich said. [Politico]

Kasich’s favorite line: “If any of you here ever get a hospital bill, it’s easier to interpret the Dead Sea scrolls than to understand your hospital bill.” • Edward-Isaac Dovere tweets: “It is not hard to interpret the Dead Sea Scrolls. They’re just in Hebrew.” [Twitter]

FOCUS ON ISRAEL: “Rubio and Trump Spar over Israel, Peace Process” by Jacob Kornbluh: “You might not know this but the position you are taking is an anti-Israel position,” Rubio told Trump… “A deal between Israel and the Palestinians, given the current makeup of the Palestinians, is not possible.” Trump countered the charge by explaining… “It serves no purpose to say you have a good guy and a bad guy. I am very pro-Israel but it doesn’t do any good to be demeaning the neighbors,” he said.” Full Transcript [JewishInsider]

HOW IT PLAYED: “Donald Trump just defended taking an atypical approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” [BusinessInsider• “Trump defies GOP litmus test on Israel” [Politico] • “Trump hit on Israel ‘neutrality’” [JTA] • “Rubio: Trump’s Attempt to Be Neutral Is ‘anti-Israel'” [Haaretz] • “Rubio: Trump ‘Thinks Palestinians Are a Real Estate Deal'” [NewsMax] • “Cuban Crushers Cruz & Rubio Hammer Trump With anti-Israel Bat” [Haaretz• “Why Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz think Israel is a winning issue against Donald Trump” [WashPost]

TWEETS: Jeffrey Goldberg: “Worth noting, probably, that this strange obsession with Israel isn’t good for Israel.” [Twitter] • Eli Lake: “BTW Trump just basically gave the @jstreetdotorg spiel. Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace.” [Twitter] • Rosie Gray: “It’s mind-blowing to see a GOP frontrunner say there’s no “good guy and bad guy” in Israeli-Palestinian conflict” [Twitter] • Erick Erickson: “Hey David Duke, Trump just defended Israel!” [Twitter] • Josh Nathan-Kazis: “Tree of Life award is given by the Jewish National Fund, an NGO, and not by the State of Israel. For what it’s worth.” [Twitter]

Trump to Israel Hayom: “Don’t get confused there in Israel: I am currently your biggest friend. My daughter is married to a Jew who is an enthusiastic Israel supporter, and I have taken part in many Israel Day parades. My friendship with Israel is very strong.” [IsraelHayom]

ADL to Donald Trump: “Distance Yourself from White Supremacists and Disavow Their Ideology” [ADL]

HEARD LAST NIGHT: “Sanders Talks of Jewish Faith” by Danny Freeman: “Asked about his relationship with Judaism, the senator said he is “very proud of his heritage.” “What comes to my mind so strongly is a kid growing up in Brooklyn and seeing people with numbers on their wrists,” Sanders said, referring to tattoos used by the Nazis to mark prisoners during the Holocaust. “And knowing that my, a good part of my father’s family was killed by the Nazis … I learned as a very young person that politics is serious business.” [NBCNewsVideo]

LongRead: “Bernie’s Complaint: The reluctant roots of his radicalism” by Joshua Cohen:“To be sure, the senator himself, whose formal involvement with Judaism began with Hebrew school and a bar mitzvah in the ’50s and appears to have faded after a ’60s stint in Israel picking apples on a kibbutz, hardly wants to talk about that heritage. Neither in speeches, nor in interviews. When I ask about this reticence—not to Bernie directly, but his support staff—I get nothing, except the sense that about half the staff I’ve met is Jewish. Sanders’s 1997 memoir, Outsider in the House, mentions his Judaism only twice, once to characterize the ethnicity of his childhood neighborhood and once to characterize the ethnicity of his parents.” [NewRepublic]

OPS: Ari Paul — “Can Bernie Sanders Breathe New Life Into the Black-Jewish Alliance?” [Forward]

David Suissa: “Of all the complicated issues running through American Jewish life, one of the most complicated is surely the relationship between Jews and African-Americans, which has frayed in recent years. A key question for both communities as we go forward is: How can we inject more love into the relationship?” [JewishJournal]

Dennis Ross and David Makovsky: “The neglected Israeli-Palestinian peace process must be revived” [WashPost]

Joe Lieberman: “The absence of U.S. leadership makes the world more dangerous than ever” [WashPost]

**Good Friday 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: Scott Shay’s Signature Bank: Raiders of the lost staff [BankingExchange] • “IMS Health Pays Its CEO Ari Bousbib More Than IBM’s to Keep Him From Leaving” [Bloomberg] • “Viacom Chief Philippe Dauman is ordered to testify in Sumner Redstone competency case” [LATimes] • “Ivan Glasenberg Forced to Trade Glencore Out of a Hole as Profit Dips” [Bloomberg] • “Sixers’ owner’s firm’s fund faces ‘junk’ ratings” [Philly]

SPOTLIGHT: “Point Breeze meeting ends after ‘anti-Semitic’ comments” by William Bender: “A community meeting in Point Breeze turned ugly Monday evening when attendees began hurling what some witnesses perceived to be racist or anti-Semitic epithets to oppose Jewish developers… “This was not one person with a screw loose,” Ori Feibush, a Point Breeze developer, said. “This was a mob mentality.” Feibush, who is Jewish, did not present any projects at the meeting. He was attending as a neighbor. One comment he said he heard was, “Why don’t you go back to Israel?” One attendee, who asked not to be identified, said he heard someone shout, “Go back to Lakewood,” a town in New Jersey with a large concentration of Orthodox Jews.” [Philly]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Full-page ad in L.A. Times calls Israel apartheid state; Variety previously rejected it” by Jared Sichel and Ryan Torok: “On Wednesday morning, Feb. 24, The Los Angeles Times published a full-page ad sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation calling Israel an apartheid state and saying it distracts the public from human rights abuses; the same ad had been rejected by Variety.” [JewishJournal]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Ronald Lauder turns 72… Bruce Kovner turns 71… Tablet Magazine’s Alana Newhouse (h/t Rob Eshman)… Lisa Harris Glass, Managing Director of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey (h/t Josh Keyak)… Jack Abramoff turns 58… Michael Smith (yesterday; h/t Dan Smith)… Uri Shulevitz turns 81… Alan Guth turns 69… Gilbert Gottfried turns 61… Actress and singer, Ilene Graff, turns 67… NYTimes op-ed columnist and Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman, turns 63… Singer-songwriter and guitarist, Danielle Haim, turns 27…

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