Daily Kickoff: Cruz’s Matzah bake | Trump vodka no longer kosher for Passover | Oren accuses Sanders of ‘blood libel’ | VR concert at Tower of David

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DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “State Dept. on Iran sanctions relief: ‘It’s complicated'” by Pete Kasperowicz: The State Department insisted Wednesday that it is not “coaching” foreign banks on how to avoid U.S. sanctions on Iran, and said it’s only “advising” these banks. “Not coaching… advising,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. But later in his daily briefing with reporters, Toner did seem to admit that State is explaining to foreign banks what will and what won’t draw U.S. sanctions. “As Iran complies with JCPOA and receives a certain amount of sanctions relief, it is incumbent on us … to live up to our end of this deal,” Toner said of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the Iran deal. “And part of that is to advise these banks and governments on ways that they can… [avoid U.S. sanctions].” [WashExaminer]

Congress split over Iran’s access to the dollar: “Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he would hold up Treasury nominees until he received an answer to the March 30 letter he and Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., sent to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. That letter notably demands assurances that the administration “will not work on behalf of Iran to enable Iranian access to US dollars elsewhere in the international financial system, including assisting Iran in gaining access to dollar payment systems outside the US financial system.” Ranking member Ben Cardin, D-Md., told Al-Monitor that he is worried punishing Iran beyond a limited set of prohibited activities could legitimately be seen as violating the nuclear deal.” [AlMonitor]

Legislation Introduced: “Marco Rubio of Florida and Mark Kirk of Illinois introduced legislation on Wednesday that would bar the Treasury from permitting foreign banks to conduct foreign currency trades in U.S. dollars for transactions involving Iran.” [APTheHill]

Washington Post editorial: “Iran should pay a price for its ballistic missile tests” [WashPost]

NO BDS PLAN: “Michael Oren’s peace plan” by Yuval Karni: Oren argues for a settlement building freeze outside of recognized blocs, strengthening the Palestinian economy, more freedom of movement for Palestinians, and giving more permits for Palestinians to work in Israel. “This plan, alongside concrete steps on the ground, will take some of the air out of BDS,” Oren claimed. “It’s very important that we continue to support the idea of two states, even if it’s not feasible or practical right now. We can lay the groundwork, which, in the end, will turn into a permanent agreement. That way, we can prove to the world that we’re serious, and that we are turning towards peace.” [YNet]

Middle East peace efforts at a standstill, should U.S. strive for more modest goals? “Is there any reason to hope that the peace process between Israel and Palestine will ever bear fruit? To explore that question, John Yang sits down with David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Hisham Melhem of Al Arabiya.” [PBSNewsHour]

TOP TALKER: ADL Calls Out Sanders for Inflating Palestinian Death Toll in Gaza War: In a statement issued on Wednesday, ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said, “Even the highest number of casualties claimed by Palestinian sources that include Hamas members engaged in attacking Israel is five times less than the number cited by Bernie Sanders. As Mr. Sanders publicly discusses his approach to key U.S. foreign policy priorities, including Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, accuracy and accountability are essential for the voting public, but also for U.S. credibility in the international community. We urge Senator Sanders to correct his misstatements.” [JewishInsider]

Alan Abbey tells us: “As someone who has written about Bernie Sanders’ Jewishness in a way that I believe reflected a nuanced understanding of the interplay of forces that have shaped him, I am extremely disappointed in his indiscriminate rhetoric and scattershot misinformation regarding Israel’s actions in the 2014 Gaza War. By repeating twice the wildly inaccurate claim that “over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza,” Bernie poured gasoline on the ashes of the delegitimized claims made by Israel-haters for the last two years. Bernie’s unselective targeting of Israel is as imprecise as he claimed Israel was in 2014. Bernie Sanders must walk back his erroneous accusations and promise to learn more about the situation and its complexities before firing off similar claims in the future.”

Michael Oren tweets: “#letmegetthisstraight Sanders aids BDS by inflating Palestinian casualties–half of them Hamas thugs–by five and won’t apologize to Israel?” [Twitter] • “Former Israeli ambassador accuses Sanders of ‘blood libel'” [Politico]

Shmuel Rosner: “Sanders is on Israel’s side – like ‘most international observers’” [JewishJournal]

Yair Rosenberg: “Sanders Inflated the Gaza Death Toll, But It’s Not Because He’s Anti-Israel: Contrary to the fulminations of the radical anti-Zionist left and hawkish pro-Israel right, Sanders’s mistake had nothing to do with him being anti-Israel, and everything to do with him not knowing much about foreign policy.” [TabletMag]

Sanders say Clinton is not ‘qualified’ to be president: “Secretary Clinton appears to be getting a little bit nervous,” he told a crowd in Philadelphia. “And she has been saying lately that she thinks that I am ‘not qualified’ to be president. Well, let me, let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton: I don’t believe that she is qualified, if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds. I don’t think that you are qualified if you get $15 million from Wall Street through your super PAC.” [CNNPolitico]

Clinton Pledges Support to Unions and Israel During Philadelphia Campaign Stop:“Following her address, when asked if she had a message for the Jewish community, Clinton told the Jewish Exponent she remains committed to the state of Israel. “Obviously, I’m a strong supporter committed to the state of Israel,” she said. “You can see that if you read my speech at AIPAC.”[JewishExponent• Rabbinical Assembly’s Rabbi Julie Schonfeld endorses Hillary [JewishWeek]

DRIVING THE DAY: At 4PM, Ted Cruz will tour a matzah bakery at the Chabad Neshama Center in Brooklyn and will hold a roundtable with Orthodox Jewish and Russian-speaking community leaders in Brighton Beach. [NBC]

Tweets — Hunter Walker: “In advance to Ted Cruz appearing at a Chabad matzo bakery, I would like to ask his position on whether he believes the Rebbe was moshiach.” [Twitter] • Charlie Spies: “Hopefully Manischewitz wine to wash it down with. Nick Muzin looking at you!” [Twitter] • Nick Muzin: “this is the bread of affliction” [Twitter] • @Juffyd: “Ted Cruz is touring a matzah factory in Brooklyn tomorrow. Makes sense- people who deal with him can’t handle it for more than 18 minutes.”[Twitter]

Flashback: “Matzah, Wine and Sen. Ted Cruz? U.S. Resorts Use Lawmaker to Lure Passover Vacationers” [Haaretz]

TRUMP VODKA: “Trump Vodka is one of perhaps a dozen products carrying the moniker of Republican front-runner Donald Trump that have fallen by the wayside through the years, a point his critics charge undermines his business reputation. The spirit, however, found an unusual afterlife in Israel, even after being discontinued in the United States. Israel’s Trump Vodka found a niche as one of the few Kosher for Passover vodkas in Israel. The Jerusalem Post has learned, however, that some bottles of Trump Vodka currently on the shelves are not kosher for Passover, despite being labeled as such.” [JPost]

What Republican Jewish donors are thinking: “Another person of influence close to the RJC (who asked for anonymity because of his political and professional ties), and a leading fundraiser, tells us, “I haven’t stepped in yet to endorse Cruz. I haven’t stepped in to endorse anybody.” Many leading Jewish Republicans “are in the same boat. We’re not going to sit it out completely, but a lot of us are a little burnt out. I have a friend who was on board with [Scott] Walker, then [Jeb] Bush, than [Marco] Rubio, and he said to me, ‘How much more can I do?’” [JewishWeek]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: “Israeli Diamond Tycoons Listed in Leaked Panama Papers” [Haaretz] • “Who are the ‘Panama Papers’ businessmen said to keep billions offshore?” [NYBizJournal] • “Apollo’s Push Into a Lending Business That Others Call Predatory” [YahooNews]

SPOTLIGHT: “Mark Cuban’s 16-Year-Old Protege Aims To Reshape The $11B Shampoo Market” by Ky Trang Ho: “The environmental impact of plastic waste from personal care products inspired 16-year-old Benjamin Stern to reshape the shampoo market. In 2014, the junior at Viera High School of Melbourne, Fla. founded Nohbo, LLC — an acronym for no hair bottles — and developed small shampoo balls, individually wrapped like candy. The “world’s first eco-friendly shampoo ball” generates no waste as the wrapper consists of compostable, plant-based materials and needs no plastic container.”[Forbes]

STARTUP NATION: “Startup Nation, Jr.: This 14-year-old Israeli Has Already Started Two Businesses” by Judy Maltz: “At 14, and with two startups already under his belt, Pincas is the youngest participant at the annual Forbes Under 30 Summit now taking place in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. A year-and-a-half ago, when he was barely 13, Pincas founded Joy2day, a company that develops mobile applications. After recruiting two older friends (one 16 and the other 18) as partners in the venture, he assumed the position of CEO.” [Haaretz]

FORBES IN ISRAEL: “‘There’s no such thing as bad dialogue,’ says ‘Forbes’ editor in Jerusalem” by Laura Kelly: “There’s no such thing as bad dialogue. There’s no such thing as a bad collaboration,” says Randall Lane. “This is not an Israeli-Palestinian conference, it’s a conference with people from 40 countries… but obviously this is front and center.” [JPost

“Millennial Middle East Peace Ambassadors: ‘We Don’t Have To Take Sides'” by Caroline Howard: “Peace is more than a potential reality for us all,” said Moriya Rosenberg of the Yala Peace Movement, a Facebook-based platform of some one million millennial Middle Easterners and more. She was part of a stirring two-person panel on “Changing the Dialogue” at the FORBES 30 Under 30 Summit on the sunny grounds of the Jerusalem Museum. A crowd of hundreds of high-achieving young entrepreneurs, game-changers and activists relaxed on bean bags and cushions as Rosenberg, Seeds of Peace’s Mohammed Nasser Eddin, and moderator Monica Lewinsky preached a message of the enormous rewards and value of building confidence in cross-cultural understanding in the region.” [Forbes] • “At Forbes conference in Israel, sitting on pillows and listening to Monica Lewinsky” [JTA]

HISTORIC: Forbes held the world’s first ever VR synced concert at the Tower of David in the Old City of Jerusalem [PicPressReleaseVideo]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Can Jewish donors repair our community?” by David Suissa: “Put 600 Jewish donors and professionals in one hotel for a few days, throw in a few dozen workshops and breakout sessions, sprinkle some fun activities and you’re bound to see good things happen… There is one thing, however, that did surprise me, and it happened at the very beginning of the conference. Instead of talking about giving, the opening plenary talked about talking. The organizers decided that the discourse in the Jewish community has become so nasty and divisive, they better address it up front.” [JewishJournal]

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism” [Newsweek]

Peter Beinart: “Why Rabbi Sacks Is Wrong: Palestinians Don’t Have to Be anti-Semites to Be anti-Zionists” [Haaretz]

CAMPUS BEAT: “Breaking the Silence Is Wrong — But Columbia Hillel Was Right To Play Host Anyway” by Daniella J. Greenbaum and Jonathan Deluty: “After word got out this past week that J Street U would be hosting the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence at the Columbia/Barnard Hillel, the eyes of the Jewish world were drawn to our campus. Debates erupted. Many pro-Israel activists called on us to cancel the event. Hillel was accused of abandoning its pro-Israel principles. Despite all this, Breaking the Silence’s Avner Gvaryahu spoke. The audience listened respectfully, and asked him tough and pointed questions. And then everyone went on his or her way. What did our campus achieve with this event? We demonstrated that we are capable of listening to each other, disagreeing and moving on.” [Forward]

HAPPENING TODAY: “Aryeh, Columbia/Barnard Hillel the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life and the SIPA Global Mayors Forum welcome the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, who will be speaking about his vision for Jerusalem, and the work that he has done to realize it.”

DESSERT: “Indigo to remove chocolate treats at checkout counters in battle to limit sugar intake” by Aleksandra Sagan: “Sugar is the enemy, said Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books and Music Inc. and executive producer of the 2014 documentary Fed Up, which takes on the sugar industry. “Today, sugar is in everything – everything,” she said during a presentation to the Toronto Region Board of Trade earlier this week. “It’s in ketchup. It’s in canned foods. It’s in the bread we eat.” [GlobalNews]

BIRTHDAYS: Politico’s Daniel Lippman turns 26 — will celebrating with 10 friends at a fancy Indian restaurant in D.C. … Vanderbilt’s philosophy professor Marilyn Friedman turns 71… Jane Sobo…

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