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Daily Kickoff: Iran tried to get back at Adelson with Sands hack | Barak Ravid: Why Bibi wants U.S. intervention in Israelex | History of the Latke

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LONG-READ: “Nuke Remark Stirred Hack on Adelson’s Sands Casinos That Foreshadowed Sony” by Ben Elgin and Michael Riley: “This was no Ocean’s Eleven. The hackers were not trying to empty a vault of cash, nor were they after customer credit card data, as in recent attacks on Target, Neiman Marcus, and Home Depot. This was personal. The perpetrators wanted to punish the company, or, more precisely, its chief executive officer and majority owner, the billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Although confirming their conjectures would take some time, executives suspected almost immediately the assault was coming from Iran. In October 2013, Adelson, one of Israel’s most hawkish supporters in the U.S., arrived on Yeshiva University’s Manhattan campus for a panel titled “Will Jews Exist?” Among the speakers that night were a famous rabbi and a columnist from the Wall Street Journal, but the real draw for the crowd in the smallish auditorium was Adelson, a slightly slumped 81-year-old man with pallid jowls and thinning hair who had to be helped onto the stage by assistants.”

“At Yeshiva he described how he’d handle talks with Iran about its ongoing nuclear program. “What are we going to negotiate about?” Adelson asked. “What I would say is, ‘Listen. You see that desert out there? I want to show you something.’ ” He would detonate an American warhead in the sand, he said, where it “doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes and scorpions or whatever.” The message: The next mushroom cloud would rise over Tehran unless the government scrapped any plans to create its own nukes. “You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position,” Adelson said, to light applause. It took only a few hours for his remarks to be posted on YouTube and ricochet around the Internet. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded two weeks later, according to the country’s semiofficial Fars News Agency, saying America “should slap these prating people in the mouth and crush their mouths.”

“Physically, Adelson and Sands are well protected. He appears in public with a phalanx of armed bodyguards, said to be former agents of the U.S. Secret Service and Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. Sands paid almost $3.3 million to protect Adelson and his family last year, according to a company filing. That’s on top of what Sands spends on vaults, security cameras, biometric screening devices, and one of the largest private police forces of any U.S. company, all to safeguard the millions of dollars of cash and chips that flow through its operations every day. But the company has been slow to adapt to digital threats. Two years ago it had a cybersecurity staff of five people protecting 25,000 computers, according to a former executive. The board authorized a major upgrade of tools and personnel in 2013, but the project was slated to be rolled out over 18 months, and it was in its infancy as Adelson mused about nuclear strikes at Yeshiva.” [Businessweek]

IRAN TALKS: “Iran says nuclear talks to resume in Geneva Wednesday: Iran will resume negotiations with world powers in Geneva next week aimed at reaching a deal over Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme, its deputy foreign minister said Thursday. Top-level talks will begin on Wednesday, December 17, with meetings at the deputy minister level taking place two days earlier, state news agency IRNA quoted Abbas Araqchi as saying.” [AFP]

“UN Rejects Iran’s Latest Nuke Probe Offer” by George Jahn: “The U.N. nuclear agency on Thursday turned down an offer by Iran to visit a site, saying access to it would not help advance its probe of suspicions Tehran worked on atomic arms. Iran has said since 2012 that experts of the U.N’s International Atomic Energy Agency are free to visit Marivan, an area near the Iraqi border that the agency originally suspected might have been the location of high-explosive experiments linked to setting off a nuclear charge. Those initial suspicions were not borne out, however, and more recently, the IAEA shifted its interest to Parchin, southeast of Tehran. Diplomats have said that Iran first suggested a visit to Marivan instead of Parchin two years ago and the agency has repeatedly refused any tradeoff. But Thursday appeared to be the first time it did so publicly, possibly reflecting exasperation with the lack of progress in its probe since its first attempts more than a decade ago.” [AP] • IAEA to get more money for Iran nuclear deal monitoring [Reuters]

“Israel not pushing for tougher Iran sanctions as talks go on” by Dan Williams in Reuters:“Israel will not press Washington to tighten sanctions on Iran while nuclear negotiations continue for the next six months, but will push for tough action if the talks’ June deadline is not met, a senior Israeli official said on Thursday. Intelligence Ministry Director-General Yuval Wollman’s remarks suggested cautious confidence Washington will stick to demands that Iran curb its atomic work, although any deal is unlikely to meet Israel’s original call that Tehran’s nuclear program be dismantled. “Within the framework of the extended talks, we think what is right is a steady and strong sanctions regime,” Wollman told Reuters in an interview. “We are not dealing with additional sanctions now. I know of no (Israeli) position calling for that, officially or unofficially.” [Reuters] • “Commerzbank Likely to Pay More than $1 Billion to Settle Iran Probes” [WSJ]

Bachmann to President Obama at White House Christmas Party: Bomb Iran: “Despite the objections of her family members, who didn’t want to be embarrassed, Bachmann said she wanted to give some “substantive comments” to the president. She waited until pictures were taken and her family walked off the stage. “I turned to the president and I said, something to the effect of, ‘Mr. President, you need to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities, because if you don’t, Iran will have a nuclear weapon on your watch and the course of world history will change,’” she told the Washington Free Beacon. “And he got his condescending smile on his face and laughed at me and said, ‘Well Michele, it’s just not that easy.’ And I said to him, ‘No, Mr. President, you’re the president, it will happen on your watch, and you’ll have to answer to the world for this.’ And that was it and then I left. Merry Christmas,” she said with a laugh.”[FreeBeacon]

HAPPENING NEXT WEEK: On Wednesday, POTUS and FLOTUS will host two Hanukkah Receptions at the White House.

TOP TWEET: @AmbShapiro: “Iron Dome Hanukiyah” with picture of an Iron Dome menorah[Tweet/Pic]

2016 WATCH: “Hillary Clinton begins weighing details of a 2016 bid, with a spring announcement likely” by Anne Gearan and Matea Gold: “Hillary Rodham Clinton is considering the nitty-gritty details of how and when to organize a presidential campaign amid signs that she will postpone making her shadow campaign official until later in 2015 than expected, according to advisers and Democratic strategists… The strategy discussions provide further evidence that the former secretary of state and first lady is edging closer to another run for the presidency, after two years writing and promoting a memoir, giving paid speeches and strengthening ties with key Democratic interest groups. But rather than announce in January — as she did in 2007 — Clinton allies are increasingly working under the assumption that an official announcement will not come until spring.​” [WashPost] • “Delays Plague Hillary Clinton’s State Dept. Files” [AP] • “Ex-Obama aide makes Warren-2016 push” [Politico]

2016 WATCH: “Backers: Romney More Open To 2016 Run” by Ben White and Maggie Haberman: “For most of the past year, Mitt Romney supporters have publicly said he should consider running again. And for most of the past year, Romney has seemed uninterested. While some people close to Romney insist he hasn’t moved from saying he has no plans to run, the 2012 Republican nominee has sounded at least open to the idea in recent conversations, according to more than a dozen people who’ve spoken with him in the last month. Another top Republican operative who is supportive of a Jeb Bush candidacy described Romney as “already running,” making the question of deferring to Bush a moot point… “Jeb’s wealth and investments are nothing on the scale of Romney’s. He is not building car elevators in Malibu mansions,” this person said, offering a hint of the bitterness that could ensue if both Romney and Bush run.” [Politico]

TOP OPS: Rob Eshman: “Why Jews still back Obama” [JewishJournal] • Liel Leibovitz: “The Israeli Election Flow Chart: A Guide to What Will Probably Happen” [TabletMag]

—Barak Ravid: “Why Netanyahu longs for an American intervention in Israeli elections” in Haaretz: “American officials said Herzog and Livni’s message to administration officials was to avoid any hint of interfering in the elections, so as not to provide Netanyahu with “ammunition” for his campaign… Netanyahu’s paranoia, however, wasn’t completely unsubstantiated. White House officials in recent weeks held a few discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Haaretz revealed one such discussion, which dealt with moving from declarative denunciations to actual steps against Israeli construction in the settlements. Quite a few American officials supported such a move. But then Netanyahu called for early elections and everything ground to a halt. Senior Israeli officials who visited Washington last week said the White House people looked like they were about to throw a hand grenade but were stuck at the last second with the grenade in one hand and the safety catch in the other. “They don’t know what to do,” one of the Israeli officials said. “Put the safety catch back in place, throw the grenade or just wait for something else to happen that would force them to make a decision.”

“That something else is liable to be the draft resolution the Palestinians are submitting to the UN Security Council, which calls for ending Israel’s occupation of the territories by the end of 2016 and establishing a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians may bring the resolution to a vote within the next two weeks… A vote at the present time would put the Americans in an embarrassing situation. The White House wants to do everything in its power to avoid casting a veto on the Palestinian issue, for two reasons: Not only would it risk undermining its relations with Sunni Arab states that are vital to its coalition against the Islamic State group, but it would also grant Netanyahu a diplomatic win that would only strengthen him in the upcoming election campaign. Yet failing to cast a veto is no less risky and complicated. American policy for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still based on direct negotiations between the parties, not on UN resolutions and votes. Moreover, such a move would set off a firestorm in the U.S. Congress. But above all, failure to cast a veto might well be interpreted as intervention in the Israeli election, giving Netanyahu the perfect campaign message and pushing the Israeli voter even farther to the right.” [Haaretz]

—Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “A New Movement Against Religious Persecution” in the WSJ’s Houses of Worship column: “The world needs a new, enlightened movement: of people of all faiths working together for the freedom of all faiths. The record of religion in the past, and tragically also in the present, has not been good. Throughout history, people have hated in the name of the God of love, practiced cruelty in the name of the God of compassion, killed in the name of the God of life, and waged war in the name of the God of peace. None of the world’s great religions has been exempt from this at one point or another. The time has come to say—enough. The challenge is simple and it is posed in the first chapter of the Bible. Can we recognize God’s image in a person who is not in our image; whose color, creed or culture is not our own? When Hanukkah begins on Tuesday evening, I will light the first candle and pray that the day may come when people of all faiths light a menorah together to celebrate a new festival of religious freedom, when we finally have learned to honor the brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind under the love and forgiveness of God.​” [WSJ]

**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**

ON THIS DATE IN… (via the AP): 1906 – “President Theodore Roosevelt nominated Oscar Straus to be Secretary of Commerce and Labor; Straus became the first Jewish Cabinet member” [AP]

CURRENTS IN CURRENCY: Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer reminded of days in Israel as Rising Dollar and Falling Oil Could Lead to a U.S. Asset Boom: “Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer is familiar with versions of this economic cocktail more recently. After the 2008 financial crisis, when he served as Governor of the Bank of Israel, Israel experienced a rising shekel, which curbed Israeli exports, a strain for an economy more geared than the U.S. toward selling its goods and services overseas. The strong shekel was the result in part of a domestic energy boom, in the form of new off-shore natural gas production. Mr. Fischer was one of the world’s first central bankers to raise interest rates after the financial crisis. But low domestic inflation and a strong shekel have led the Israeli central bank to push them back down again. Low rates and capital inflows, in turn, helped to spur a housing boom.”

“The Bank of Israel intervened in currency markets to slow the shekel’s rise and used supervisory tools to repress the housing boom. The results were mixed. High housing costs have been a nagging problem for the Israeli economy and a longstanding source of concern for the central bank. Israeli exporters still howl about the consequences of a strong currency. The U.S. economy is different than a small economy like Israel’s. The U.S. is less exposed to trade and the dollar is a reserve currency. The Fed might not use the same tools Mr. Fischer did in Israel, but the U.S. central bank could be on a track to have the same kinds of worries in 2015.” [WSJ]

BUSINESS BRIEFS: “Paul Singer Pins Blame on Fed for Income Inequality” [NYTimes] • “In Public Q&A, Mark Zuckerberg Says Facebook Isn’t A Waste Of Time, Won’t Launch A Dislike Button”[TechCrunch• “Saban Brands forms entertainment, lifestyle units” [BizJournal] • “Leon Black Says Milken-Inspired Apollo Credit Arm Is Growth Core” [Bloomberg• “Joseph and Eli Tabak pay $21.5M for FiDi building” [RealDeal] • WeWork signs large Santa Monica lease [LAbizjournal]

STARTUP NATION: “VC Michael Eisenberg: More Founders are Staying in Israel: If you’ve ever done an Internet or software venture deal in Israel, you probably know Michael Eisenberg. He started off in the industry 20 years ago, working first as a general partner at Israel Seed Partners, then spending nearly a decade with Benchmark, which he left last year to launch Aleph, an early-stage firm he cofounded with operator-turned-investor, Eden Shochat.​ Eisenberg also spends plenty of time in the U.S., to visit Israeli founders who’ve relocated here, as well as to help recruit for those of his portfolio companies that are staying put back home. In fact, the busy father of eight happened to be in New York yesterday; in between meetings, we chatted by phone about Israel’s current startup scene and what he’s seeing there.​”[StriclyVC]

FILM NATION: “Israeli film nominated for Golden Globe: An Israeli submission to the Golden Globes, “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” has been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced Thursday. Meanwhile, Showtime’s critically acclaimed TV drama “The Affair,” created by Israeli producer Hagai Levi, picked up three Golden Globe nominations: for Best Actress, Best Actor and Best TV Series.” [ToI] • Dark Comedy ‘Zero Motivation’ Satirizes Life in the Israeli Army [TabletMagWSJ]

TRANSISTIONS: “Beigelman to replace Keller at OJC: Joyce Garver Keller will retire as executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities effective June 30, 2015. She has served as executive director since 1990. Keller will be succeeded by Howie Beigelman, who will join the organization on Jan. 1 as assistant executive director. Beigelman is the former director of state affairs for the Orthodox Union and has many years of political and advocacy experience.” [CJN]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Mention of Israel banned at Irish national Holocaust memorial [Haaretz] • “Czech home owners find Jewish belongings from WWII” [Reuters] • “Shots fired at Israeli embassy in Athens” [AP] • “Mayor De Blasio Meets Jewish Community Leaders In Crown Heights” [JP]

DEEP DIVE: “Gaza Is Almost Totally Cut Off From The World, And It’s Getting Ugly” by Armin Rosen in Business Insider: “Gaza is one of the most populous cities between the Jordan River Valley and the Mediterranean sea, but there are no passable roads connecting it with Ashkelon, the tranquil Israeli beach town less than 10 miles up the coast, or El Arish, the nearest port city in the Egyptian Sinai. On one side of the border, marked by a sealed and probably blast-proof metal sliding door cut into a 15-foot-high-wall, is Israel, a place with smooth highways and traffic signals, plentiful western products, potable running water, 24-hour electricity, postal service, cinemas, rule of law, and regular garbage collection. On the other is a place with frequent power outages and other signs of state collapse, where regional strife and internal disorder keep people cut off from the rest of the world and from each other as well.”

“Israel may have bitter relations with Gaza, but only Egypt is willing to keep the Strip totally sealed off. I asked the clerk at an empty café next to the entrance to Rafah crossing if his shop stocked any Egyptian-made items. He said that cigarettes were the only products coming through the few smuggling tunnels that still remained open. The rest of his products had arrived through Israel… Hamas’s summer hostilities failed to coerce Israel into lifting its border restrictions and likely convinced Egypt to tighten theirs. Palestinian political gridlock and Hamas’s weapons arsenal leave little optimism that the root causes of Gaza’s isolation — Hamas’s empowerment, the Palestinian Authority’s collapse, and the chaos and radicalism that each have given rise to — can be resolved peacefully either. And there’s almost no possibility of a negotiated resolution to the larger Israeli-Palestinian conflict if Gaza remains outside the full control of the PA, which is the only entity that the peace process empowers to make a deal on the Palestinian people’s behalf.” [BI] • “Abbas Supports Egypt’s Crackdown on Tunnels” [INS] • “UN Envoy Meets With Top Hamas Leader In Gaza” [AP]

DESSERT: “The History Of The Latke In 8 Tweets” by Marisa Kabas in Fast Company:“Hanukkah 2014 kicks off Tuesday at sundown, and all around the world, chefs are preparing their skillets to fry up batches of golden brown potato pancakes known as latkes. But it wasn’t always this way. On Wednesday evening, Harvard historian Yoni Appelbaum took to Twitter to explain the early and occasionally disgusting origins of what is now arguably the Jewish culture’s most delicious culinary treat.”

1. A thousand years ago, no one ate latkes. If Chanukah had a quintessential foodstuff, it was fatted geese, slaughtered before the winter. 2. By the fourteenth century, sources attest that Chanukah was associated with dairy goods, based on variants of the Book of Judith. 3. (The story of Judith was set 450 years before the Maccabees, but later erroneously associated with their triumph. Bear with me here.) 4. So Jews took soft cheeses, formed them into pancakes, and fried them. In southern Europe, that usually involved olive oil. 5. In northern Europe? Dairy goods were expensive in December, and olive oil a rarity. They friend rye of buckwheat pancakes in schmaltz. 6. Only in the nineteenth century did the potato, a New World crop, become popular in Poland, and get fried (still in schmaltz) as pancakes. 7. The contemporary latke is less an emblem of an unbroken heritage than a testament to the flows of migration and global commerce. 8.What’s a latke? A new world vegetable, fried like Italian cheeses, based on a mistaken reading of obscure variants of an apocryphal text.” [FastCompany]

That’s all folks; have a great day!
**Have a tip, suggestion, or even an op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Email  editor@jewishinsider.com**

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