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Daily Kickoff: President Obama: “Even critics of our policy like the Netanyahu gov’t” | NBC wanted David Gregory to discuss his Jewish faith on air

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RECAP: “2014 Frustrates US Hopes For Israeli-Palestinian Peace” by Lara Jakes in the AP:“Secretary of State John Kerry is ending 2014 much in the same way he started it, frustrated in efforts to push Israel and Palestinians toward peace. With a diplomatic showdown looming this past week over Arab plans to force Israel from occupied Palestinian lands within three years, Kerry prepared for a quick trip to Jordan in hopes of finding a calmer alternative. By Thursday, the crisis appeared to have been averted when Palestinian and Jordanian officials said they would not push their resolution to an immediate vote in the U.N. Security Council, partly because the U.S. threatened a veto.” [AP] • ICYMI: “President Obama Signs Bill Deepening US-Israeli Cooperation” [AP]

BEHIND THE SCENES: “Kerry Tells European Envoys U.N. Action on Palestine Can Wait till Israeli Election” by Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy: “Sec. John Kerry has privately told European Union envoys that Washington will not permit the passage of any U.N. Security Council resolution on the Middle East peace process until after Israel’s March elections, according to three diplomats briefed on the meeting…. The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the luncheon was confidential, said that Kerry explained that Israel’s liberal political leaders, Shimon Peresand Tzipi Livni, had expressed concern that a Security Council move to pressure Israel on the eve of election would only strengthen the hands of Israeli hardliners, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Naftali Bennett, an implacable foe of a Palestinian state and leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party.” [ForeignPolicy] • “Livni: Bibi Should Thank Me for Turning to Kerry” [INN] — Response via Israel Hayom: “Livni crossed red line with her political subversion” [IH]

—“Palestinian FM: We won’t push off UN bid until after Israeli elections”: “The Palestinian Authority has refused to postpone a vote on a UN Security Council statehood bid until after Israel’s March 17 elections, despite international pressure, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said Monday. Separately, top PA official Saeb Erekat said the resolution will be ready for a vote “in the next few days” and denied that US Secretary of State John Kerry had urged the Palestinian leadership to push off the vote until after elections.” [ToI]

—Hussein Ibish: Palestinians don’t have much to lose: “Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, said that the Palestinians are testing the limits of what they can achieve diplomatically at a time when relations between the United States and Israel are particularly strained. “They don’t have that much to lose,” he said. Back home, Ibish said, the Palestinians face pressure “to do some to shake things up and to show there is some utility in pursuing a diplomatic strategy.” On the international front, he added, the Palestinians are testing the diplomatic waters. “What is the ultimate downside?” Ibish said. “Sure, they can get the veto and have tense relations with the United States. But West and the U.S. are not going to force the downfall of the Palestinian Authority over this. They are too useful to the Americans and the Israelis.” [ForeignPolicy]

MUST READ: “Gaza’s Explosion Waiting to Happen: The simmering stalemate between Hamas and Fatah will not end well” by Neri Zilber in Politico Magazine: “More than three months after the guns fell silent in and around the Gaza Strip, the postwar reconstruction of Gaza has moved forward at a snail’s pace, plans for a more hopeful future are stalled, and another giant reckoning appears to be only a matter of time. “There will be an explosion,” one former senior Palestinian intelligence chief in Ramallah told me. “Whether it’s directed at Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) or Hamas, no one knows.” The Gazan population is growing increasingly agitated as conditions in the territory worsen, and all because of the continued standoff between Hamas and Fatah over Palestinian reconciliation. This was the deal that ended the fighting in late August —reconciliation as a precondition to reconstruction— and the deal that all the relevant parties – Hamas, Israel, the PA, Egypt, as well as the United Nations – ostensibly agreed to.”

“But all these plans are on hold as Hamas and the PA engage in a game of political chicken, staring each other down , a reality confirmed to me over the past month in conversations with nearly two dozen Israeli and Palestinian officials (from both Fatah and Hamas), international diplomats and non-governmental sources based in Israel and the West Bank, some of whom requested to remain anonymous so as to speak more freely. The most surprising aspect is the fatalism conveyed by both sides of the Palestinian divide. National unity was, to a man, held up as a necessity for the Palestinian people – yet the actual welfare of those Palestinians living in Gaza has apparently been deemed secondary to the considerations of power politics.” [PoliticoMag] • “Of 5.4B pledged for Gaza, only a fraction delivered” [Reuters] • “Ghaith al-Omari, who until recently directed the American Task Force on Palestine, is joining the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as a senior fellow” [Haaretz]

SUNDAY SHOWS: President Obama to CNN’s Candy Crowley — “Even critics of our policy like the Netanyahu government in Israel” — Context: “OBAMA: There is this knee-jerk sense, I think, on the part of some in the foreign policy establishment that, you know, shooting first and thinking about it second, uh, projects strength. I disagree with. We have been very firm with respect to those countries that we think are violating international law or are acting against our interests. But I have been consistent in saying that where we can solve problems diplomatically, we should do so. You look at an example like Iran, over the last year and a half, since we began negotiations with them, that’s probably the first year and a half in which Iran has not advanced its nuclear program in the last decade. CROWLEY: And we know that for sure… OBAMA: And we know that… CROWLEY: – that they have not. OBAMA: – we – that’s not just verified by the United Nations and the IEA – IAEA and ourselves, even critics of our policy like the Netanyahu government in Israel, their intelligence folks have acknowledged that, in fact, Iran has not made progress.” [CNN] • Related: “Crowley Bids CNN Farewell” [CNN] • “Obama Takes Foreign Policy Risk, But On His Own Terms” by Julia Pace [AP]

IRAN TALKS: “Iran hails US-Cuba thaw as proof sanctions don’t work: “Iran has seized on Washington’s historic rapprochement with Cuba after five decades of Cold War standoff as proof that big power sanctions do not work. “The defence by the Cuban government and people of their revolutionary ideals over the past 50 years shows that policies of isolation and sanctions imposed by the major powers against the wishes of independent nations are ineffective,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Akfham said. The statement, released late Saturday, was Iran’s first official reaction to the rapprochement announced by the two governments on Wednesday.” [AFP/Yahoo] • “Tensions Rise Between Rouhani and Iran’s Powerful Revolutionary Guard” by Nader Habibi: “Whether or not Rouhani was actually targeting the Revolutionary Guard, various political factions inside Iran’s regime clearly viewed his speech as an attempt to criticize the group’s vast financial and business activities. Open criticism of the Revolutionary Guard is unprecedented and could indicate a shift in Rouhani’s relationship with a key component of the Islamic Republic.” [WPR] • OpEd: “What About Responding to the Iranian Cyberattack?” [Commentary] • “Budget pressure unlikely to deflect Iran from nuclear goals” [Reuters]

—“Gulf States and Qatar Gloss Over Differences, but Split Still Hampers Them” by David D. Kirkpatrick: “Shaking hands and kissing foreheads, the monarchs of the Persian Gulf came together this month to declare that they had resolved an 18-month feud in order to unite against their twin enemies, Iran and the Islamic State. But the split is still festering, most visibly here in the place where it broke out over the military ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president…. Discord among the gulf states has undermined efforts to coordinate support for rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and contributed to the emergence of the Islamic State. It has muted the attempts of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the alliance founded by the six gulf states, to counter what they see as expanding Iranian influence.” [NYTimes] • “Saudi Oil Chief: No Conspiracy Behind Oil Prices” [AP] • “Why the Saudis decided not to prop up oil” [WSJ]

TOP TALKER: “In 2008 Mumbai Attacks, Piles of Spy Data, but an Uncompleted Puzzle” by James Glanz, Sebastian Rotella and David E. Sanger: “In the fall of 2008, a 30-year-old computer expert named Zarrar Shah roamed from outposts in the northern mountains of Pakistan to safe houses near the Arabian Sea, plotting mayhem in Mumbai, India’s commercial gem. Mr. Shah, the technology chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani terror group, and fellow conspirators used Google Earth to show militants the routes to their targets in the city. He set up an Internet phone system to disguise his location by routing his calls through New Jersey. Shortly before an assault that would kill 166 people, including six Americans, Mr. Shah searched online for a Jewish hostel and two luxury hotels, all sites of the eventual carnage.”

“But he did not know that by September, the British were spying on many of his online activities, tracking his Internet searches and messages, according to former American and Indian officials and classified documents disclosed by Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor… Before the attacks started that evening, the documents show, Mr. Shah pulled up Google images of the Oberoi Hotel and conducted Wikimapia searches for the Taj and the Chabad House, the Jewish hostel run by an American rabbi from Brooklyn who would die in the strike along with his pregnant wife. Mr. Shah opened the hostel’s website.” [NYTimes]

TOP-OP: “The Year Terrorists Lost Religion” by Noah Feldman: “The horrific massacre of 132 boys this week at their school in Peshawar, Pakistan, embodies a new trend in Islamist terrorism that has emerged over this year. Past jihadi terrorists, up to and including Osama bin Laden, claimed that their violence was justified as self-defense under their interpretation of the Islamic laws of war. In 2014, however, we’ve seen radical Islamists ignoring those laws altogether. From Islamic State to Boko Haram to the Pakistani Taliban, the killers seem unconcerned to justify their actions in terms of Shariah — and this development demands careful attention to understand where the jihadis are going.”

“Before you say that you don’t care what rationale terrorists give for their actions, recall that understanding terrorism is a necessary prerequisite to combating it. The vast majority of terrorist acts are not committed by literal madmen who don’t know right from wrong. To the contrary, most terrorists think that their actions fit into a moral schema and that they are thoroughly justified by some combination of politics and theology. To understand the terrorists’ arguments is not to justify or forgive them. It’s simply the first step toward making terrorism a thing of the past.” [BloombergView]

ROGER COHEN: “What Will Israel Become?” in the New York Times: ““There is a growing uneasiness, social, political, economic,” Amos Oz, the novelist, told me in an interview. “There is a growing sense that Israel is becoming an isolated ghetto, which is exactly what the founding fathers and mothers hoped to leave behind them forever when they created the state of Israel.” Israel is a remarkable and vibrant democratic society that is facing an impasse. It must decide whether to tough it out on a nationalist road that must lead eventually to annexation of at least wide areas of the West Bank, or whether to return to the ideals of the Zionists who accepted the 1947 United Nations partition of Mandate Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab (the Arabs did not accept the division and embarked on the first of several losing wars aimed at destroying Israel). This election constitutes a pivotal moment. Herzog told me, “We are not willing to accept that mothers and fathers on the other side don’t want peace. They also want it, and I understand that they have a lack of hope just like here.” He smiled, as a thought occurred to him. “You know, I would be very happy to visit my mother’s birthplace in Egypt as prime minister.”[NYTimes] • “Herzog & Livni Pledge to Keep Jerusalem United” [INN]

**Good Monday 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**

2016 WATCH: “2016 Hopeful Ben Carson Pledges Support For Israel” by Josef Federman:“In his first visit to Israel, prospective Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said he is in awe of the Jewish state, inspired by its ancient holy sites, impressed by the resilience of people living in a perpetual conflict zone – and deeply disappointed in President Barack Obama. “I would make it very clear that Israel and the United States have a long, cordial relationship, and I don’t think we should ever leave the Israelis in a position of wondering whether we support them,” Carson said in an hourlong interview with The Associated Press in Jerusalem. “And that certainly is a question now.” [AP] • “G.O.P. Hopes for Unity May Be Upset by Ben Carson” [NYTimes] • “Jeb Bush’s Ties to Donors Put Rivals in a Bind” [WSJ]

2016 DEMS: “Role for Warren: To Push, if Not Supplant, Clinton” by Jonathan Martin: “She has an unrivaled status in the party that was much less clear in 2006, when, after all, not only was Obama thinking of running, but there were a lot of credible candidates already running for president,” said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s former strategist, who has been somewhat critical of Mrs. Clinton recently. “She wants to ensure that the Democratic nominee makes the plight of the middle class and lack of economic mobility today a fundamental motivating plank of their candidacy,” Mr. Axelrod said of Ms. Warren, calling the possibility of her running “a bit of fantasy.” (“But it is good for left-wing P.A.C.s and T-shirt makers,” he joked.)” [NYTimes] • “Guy Cecil won’t manage Clinton 2016 campaign” [Politico] • “Not so ready for Joe Biden” [TheHill]

BACKSTORY: “How David Gregory Lost His Job: Last summer, Gregory was let go from his gig as host of “Meet the Press.” Here’s an inside look at his fall from the top—and what it says about the state of TV news” by Luke Mullins: “By early 2013, NBC—which had now been under Comcast’s control for two years—began a concerted effort to revive Meet the Press… The network decided it needed to learn more about Gregory to help him establish a stronger connection with his audience. So it had the branding consultants interview his wife, friends, and colleagues, according to people familiar with the research. Producers later encouraged Gregory to mention his family and his Jewish faith on the air to help viewers get to know him better. Nothing worked. In August 2013, Meet the Press’s ratings plummeted to 21-year lows.” [Washingtonian

ICYMI: UK Prime Minister David Cameron hosted a Hanukkah reception at 10 Downing Street last week [YouTube] • “Congressman Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) dances at the Chabad Chanukah on the Santa Fe Plaza celebration” [YouTube]

HANK SHEINKOPF ON NYC TENSION: “Mayors tend not to do well when the police department and its officers are not happy,” said New York political strategist Hank Sheinkopf, whose clients have included de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.” [Reuters] • “ADL: Killing of NYPD Officers ‘Heinous, Senseless, Shocking'” [Forward

“WHITE HOUSE DEPARTURE LOUNGE — Jonathan Greenblatt, Special Assistant to the President and White House Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, will leave at the end of the month to serve as a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business for the remainder of the academic year before moving to his permanent position as the new National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).” [Playbook]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “BBC Chief: Anti-Semitism makes me question Jews’ future in UK:“The director of BBC Television said rising anti-Semitism has made him question the long-term future for Jews in the UK. Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem on Sunday, Danny Cohen said the past year had been the most difficult for him as a Jew living in the United Kingdom. “I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK as I’ve felt in the last 12 months. And it’s made me think about, you know, is it our long-term home, actually. Because you feel it. I’ve felt it in a way I’ve never felt before actually,” he said in a conversation with Channel 2’s anchor Yonit Levi.” [ToI] • “As anti-Semitism heats up, so does Fuel For Truth” [ToI]

NOT A GREAT READ: “How Israeli extremists use WhatsApp to incite violence” [Mashable]

STARTUP REGION: “The Middle East: Tech Talent Amid Troubles” — “The following is an excerpt from the new edition of Startup Rising, Christopher M. Schroeder’s book on the entrepreneurial spirit of the Arab Middle East, first published a little over a year ago, and now available in paperback.” [IDG]

SPORTS BLINK: NBA’s Pelicans Waive Israeli Gal Mekel [NBA]

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Malkin Family Sued By Empire State Building Shareholders & Andrew Penson [Bloomberg] • “Hedgie Marc Lasry looks to cash in on lifeless energy companies” [NYPost] • “SBE Entertainment says Sam Nazarian’s exit won’t hinder global plans” [LA Times] • “Hertz Investment Group buys Clinton’s South Pointe office complex for $20.5M” [DailyJournal] • “A new look at Ziel Feldman’s NoMad project” [RealDeal] • “Jeff Sutton grabs Crown Building for $1.75B” [NYPost]

TOUGH NEIGHBORHOOD: “Chicago Mayor’s Teenage Son Mugged Near Home: “A spokeswoman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the mayor’s 17-year-old son was mugged near the family’s home. Spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said Saturday that the mayor’s son, Zach, had “injuries that required medical treatment, but was able to join the family for a long planned trip.” The mayor and his family were headed for a vacation in Chile this weekend.” [AP]

NYTIMES WEDDING: “Taking Their Time” by Sandee Brawarsky: “For Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt, asking Avital Chizhik for a second date was something entirely new. In the dating rule book of their Orthodox world, the expected response would have been to say nothing after the first date and leave it to the matchmaker who introduced them to determine whether the interest had been mutual. When they met in April 2012, he was a rabbinical intern at Park East Synagogue in Manhattan, while she, a senior at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University, was studying English and already the author of opinionated and personal articles about her Orthodox faith and, in particular, the role of women.” [NYTimes]

VIRAL: “Hasidic hipster band Zusha hopes to bring people of all faiths closer to God” by Sasha Bogursky: “They may share the same long beards, curly pe’ot (sidelocks) and come from a similar Hasidic background, but don’t call Zusha the next Matisyahu. While they site the Jewish reggae singer as one of their inspirations, this bearded band of neo-Hasidic hipsters are shaking up the music industry with their wordless melodies aimed at bringing people of all faiths closer to God. “We’re playing music for unity, for connection, to bring all of the inspiration we got from our Judaism [to others] in a more universal way,” lead singer Shlomo Gaisin said.” [Fox411] • “Celebrate Hanukkah with a $100,000 menorah?” [MarketWatch] • “Manhattan’s Biggest Menorah Mystery, Solved” [TabletMag]

DESSERT: “In Brooklyn, Racing Against the Shabbat Clock at Kings HIghway Glatt” by Andrew Cotto in the New York Times: “Shabbat is the weekly Jewish day of rest. It begins a few minutes before sundown every Friday and ends with the appearance of the first three stars on Saturdayevening. During this interlude, Jews are encouraged to reflect and to remember, to appreciate family and to seek a sense of peace. And to eat. For the large population of Syrian Jews living in Gravesend, Brooklyn, the eating part is often sorted out, in the last moments of daylight before Shabbat begins, at a cherished local shop owned and operated by Simon Leviov and his sons… “It’s like Thanksgiving once a week for us,” said Rachel Mamiye, who was picking up a few items with the eldest of her four children in tow. “You know how hard it is to make these things?” she asked, pointing toward the freezers stacked with Middle Eastern delicacies, all manner of stuffed and rolled meats and dough and vegetables. “I do it all myself, of course,” she added, “but not everybody can make homemade food anymore.” [NYTimes] • “UK shoppers could be told how their meat has been slaughtered after halal row over unsuspecting diners eating animals which weren’t stunned” [DailyMail]

BIRTHDAYS: Former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz turns 71… Sen. Ted Cruz turns 44… Hank Sheinkopf… 

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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