Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: Top pro-Israel donors sign on for Lindsey Graham lunch | Giuliani: “not sure how wrong the Crusades are” | NYTimes on the Safra family

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TALK OF OUR NATION: “Iran’s Jews: It’s Our Home And We Plan To Stay” by Steve Inskeep: “Iran is a country where people at rallies routinely chant “Death to Israel.” It’s also home to the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel and Turkey. Iran’s Jewish population topped 100,000 in the years before the shah of Iran was toppled in 1979 by the country’s Shiite Muslim clerics. Today, the number of Jews has dipped to below 9,000. The Jews’ very presence in Iran demonstrates the complexity of a country that is hard for outsiders to understand.” [NPR]

2016 WATCH: Top pro-Israel donors sign on for Lindsey Graham lunch after Netanyahu speech: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is getting some 2016 encouragement from several of the GOP’s top donors, with Sheldon Adelson signing up as a co-chair for a March 3 fundraiser for the senator’s testing-the-waters political committee, Security Through Strength. Graham’s “luncheon and policy discussion” at the Capitol Hill club will be held right after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint meeting of Congress. Donors are invited to watch together, before being joined by Graham.” [Politico]

Donors listed on the invite include… Ken Abramowitz, Dr. Miriam & Sheldon G. Adelson, Yitz Applebaum, Robert Asher, Richard Bassuk, Wayne Berman, Elliott Broidy, Norm Brownstein, Safra Catz & Gal Tirosh, Dr. Ben Chouake, Ted Cutler, Edward Czucker, Phil Darivoff, Alec Ellison, David Flaum, Arie Genger, Jeffrey Gunter, Roger Hertog, Jon Jacobson, Howard Jonas, Seth Klarman, Steven Klinghoffer, Eliot Lauer, Edward C. Levy, Jr., Barry Mannis, Lew Meltzer, Larry A. Mizel, Bobby Rechnitz, Frank Risch, Lenny Sands, Roger Sofer, Bill Stern, and Judy & Sidney Swartz.

—The policy discussion will be moderated by the RJC’s Matt Brooks and will feature guest speakers including Senators John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, Norm Coleman, Jon Kyl and Reps. Ed Royce and Trey Gowdy.

“White House: Israel ‘cherry-picking’ intel that distorts Iran talks: There’s no question that some of the things that the Israelis have said in characterizing our negotiating position have not been accurate. There’s no question about that,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said during a press briefing on Wednesday. “We’ve also been very clear about the fact that the United States is not going to be in a position of negotiating this agreement in public, particularly when we see that there is a continued practice of cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States.” [TheHillWashPost]

MARTIN INDYK: “US should offer Israel ‘nuclear guarantee’ to cool Iran fears: Such an arrangement would take the form of a bilateral treaty, Indyk explained. “It would require legislation and I believe it would pass pretty much unanimously,” he said. The guarantee would commit the US to take some sort of action should Iran cross a certain threshold, though Indyk did not say exactly what the specific contours of such a deal would take.” [ToI]

“Will Black Lawmakers’ Anger Over Bibi Speech Hurt Support for Israel?” by Nathan Gutman: “African-American members of Congress are now in contact with the Israeli embassy in Washington in an effort to organize a meeting either with Netanyahu during his visit to Washington or with Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. This meeting, said a congressional source, should be viewed as an attempt by both sides to contain the conflict and ensure future cooperation.” [Forward]

David Suissa Op: “How Bibi could surprise the world”: On March 3, to really shake up the world, Bibi will have to commit to a new Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative and make a serious announcement regarding settlements. [JewishJournal]

BEHIND THE SCENES: “Inside the Fight Over Obama’s Terror Summit: The State Department is squabbling over acronyms, the White House may come up empty-handed, and the right is blaming it all on Islam” by John Hudson: “The more substantive internal issue at play, according to U.S. and foreign diplomats, is the summit’s emphasis on a broad approach to countering extremism that risks yielding few actionable goals. From poverty, corruption, and girls’ education to unemployment and building “resilient communities,” the State Department leadership is bent on mashing together a variety of potential drivers of extremism into its part of the conference.” [FP]

“Obama: U.S. at War With Extremists, Not Muslims” by Byron Tau: “Speaking Wednesday at a White House summit on the problem of violent extremism and radicalization, Mr. Obama said the global community must take steps to stem the recruiting efforts of groups that commit acts of terrorism in the name of religion, while rejecting the premise that forces such as Islamic State and al Qaeda represent an authentic interpretation of the Muslim faith.” [WSJ]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — Scott Walker in NYC: John Catsimatidis, the billionaire supermarket owner and former New York mayoral candidate, sponsored dinner for Walker at the “21” Club in Manhattan last night. Among the attendees were Mort Zuckerman, Larry Kudlow, Arthur Laffer, Stephen Moore, Rich Lowry, Rudy Giuliani, and Maria Bartiromo. [PoliticoWashPost]

TOP TALKER: “Rudy Giuliani: President Obama doesn’t love America” by Darren Samuelsohn: “The former New York mayor, speaking in front of the 2016 Republican presidential contender and about 60 right-leaning business executives and conservative media types, directly challenged Obama’s patriotism, discussing what he called weak foreign policy decisions and questionable public remarks when confronting terrorists… “I thought the Crown Heights riots were a pogrom because you’re going out trying to kill Jews,” Giuliani said. “Why is this man incapable of saying that? You’ve got to be able to criticize Islam for the parts of Islam that are wrong. You criticize Christianity for the part of Christianity that is wrong. I’m not sure how wrong the Crusades are. The Crusades were kind of an equal battle between two groups of barbarians. The Muslims and the crusading barbarians. What the hell? What’s wrong with this man that he can’t stand up and say there’s a part of Islam that’s sick?” [Politico] • “Rudy expands, clarifies Obama attack” [Politico]

“Walker hires domestic, foreign policy advisers” by Darren Samuelson: “The Republican is adding Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer Mike Gallagher to handle the international portfolio at his political action committee. Kristen Jackson, an expert in energy, trade and immigration, will join Walker’s team as a domestic policy adviser… Gallagher handles Middle East, North Africa and counterterrorism issues for the Foreign Relations Committee.” [Politico]

Elizabeth Warren & Israel: Jeremy Burton, executive director of the JCRC of Greater Boston, said that Warren’s decision to make Israel and Jordan her first overseas trip as a senator was a “fairly significant statement” about that region “being an issue that she is looking to understand and get to know herself.”… “Both of these actions are worrisome signs,” said Tevi Troy regarding Warren’s recent decisions on Iran sanctions and PA funding. “The best place for the pro-Israel community to be is in a place where they have bipartisan support. … I would hope that Senator Warren would return to the bipartisan consensus position in the future.” [JNS] • “Elizabeth Warren and Janet Yellen met for private lunch” [TheHill]

“When a Clinton ‘Ally’ Isn’t an Ally At All: Dozens of freelancing Democrats are posing as Clinton confidantes, and it’s mess-making for her real team” by Emily Schultheis [NationalJournal]

Michael Granoff Op: “In 1992, I joined the presidential campaign staff of a young, inspiring Democratic governor, Bill Clinton, who succeeded in ousting incumbent President George H.W. Bush. A generation later, I have decided to actively support the expected campaign of President Bush’s son, Jeb — very possibly against President Clinton’s wife, Hillary. Why? My choice is not a consequence of a change in my own philosophy – but rather a change in the way too many mainstream Democrats understand America’s role in the world. Because it is central to my decision, let me unpack this before discussing Jeb Bush in particular.” [ToI]

JEB BUSH’S FP SPEECH: “As Bush readies for a presidential bid, the ex-Florida governor used his speech at the Chicago Council on World Affairs to stake out what he called “liberty diplomacy,” a principle for spreading democracy. He also offer full-throated support for international trade agreements and Israel. Call it pandering or conviction or both, but Bush noted that he’d take five trips to Israel and that “the highlight reel of my life” could include his forging a commercial agreement with Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon when Bush was Florida’s commerce secretary in the early 1990s.” [Newsweek] • Watch the entire speech [CSPAN]

JOSH ROGIN: “Jeb’s Shock-and-Awe Foreign Policy Team” in Bloomberg View: “Among many Washington Republicans, Bush’s showcasing of his adviser list was seen as a brazen attempt to present the image of a front-runner and even a veneer of invincibility. Several Republican foreign policy veterans bristled at what they saw as the campaign’s effort to pressure top experts to commit to him before the primary campaign has even started and before other prospective candidates have been able to make their cases.”

“Another potential problem for Bush is that by making his team public now, their comments and actions become attributed to the campaign, whether the candidate agrees or not. For example, former Secretary of State James Baker came under criticism when it was announced he will be a keynote speaker at the conference for J Street, an Israel-related nongovernmental group that many Republicans criticize.” [BV] • “His team features some of his dad’s key advisors, but also some of his brother’s to keep the GOP base happy.” [Politico]

More Bibi Polls: “GOP pollster McLaughlin & Associates: Most Americans support Benjamin Netanyahu speech” [Politico]

“As David Cohen becomes CIA’s No. 2, Jews appear to have smoother sailing at security agencies” by Ron Kampeas: “A number of Jews have long alleged that they hit speed bumps in the American security services, their careers in some cases temporarily obstructed over security clearance questions. For others, accusations of espionage based on ties to Israel, however remote, have driven them from their jobs following home raids and round-the-clock surveillance. Jewish leaders said those incidents are now fading from memory. In their wake, they said, the outlook for Jews at the highest levels of the American security apparatus are improving.” [JTA]

IRAN: “A lawyer chosen to represent a Washington Post correspondent detained in Iran has been unable to complete formalities to defend him, the reporter’s brother said Wednesday as he appealed to the judiciary and the country’s top leader to examine the case.” [WashPost] • “UMass-Amherst lifts ban on Iranian national students studying science and engineering” [TheVerge]

“Pro-Iran militias’ success in Iraq could undermine U.S.” by Liz Sly: “Shiite militias backed by Iran are increasingly taking the lead in Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State, threatening to undermine U.S. strategies intended to bolster the central government, rebuild the Iraqi army and promote reconciliation with the country’s embittered Sunni minority.” [WashPost]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: “Two Deals Bring Attention to Banking’s Safra Family” by David Gelles and Dan Horch: “On a single day last fall, two deals were coming together that would draw unusual attention to a banking family that prefers to remain in the shadows. In addition to the family’s vast and growing real estate holdings, its fortune is bolstered by a network of international banks, including Banco Safra in Brazil, J. Safra Sarasin Holding in Switzerland and Safra National Bank of New York. In total, the family and its banks have more than $200 billion under management, and stockholder equity of more than $15 billion.”

“Today run by Joseph Safra, the last surviving son of the patriarch who built the family’s initial fortune, the Safra Group manages billions of the family’s personal money. Worth an estimated $14.5 billion according to Forbes, Mr. Safra, 76, is the world’s richest banker… Observant of his Sephardic Jewish roots, he keeps a strict kosher diet. Privacy, however, has not inhibited the family’s ability to expand its reach, or increase its wealth. Several people who work closely with the Safra Group describe a family that measures success by decades and generations.” [DealBook]

LongRead: “Are the World’s Biggest Banks Moving Money for Terrorists? How a New Jersey lawyer is fighting to make banks liable for violent deaths at the hands of extremists” by Paul Barrett: “Part of what makes Gary Osen effective is his ability to tap other lawyers with deeper pockets. Another advantage is family tradition. Osen learned lawyering from his father, Max, a German immigrant who represented families of Holocaust victims seeking to recover assets stolen by the Nazis.” [Bloomberg]

STARTUP NATION: “Nyotron raises $10m led by Meir Shamir” [Globes]

ISRAELEX: “Michael Oren: Israel can’t bank on Abbas for peace; it needs to take actions now, alone” [Haaretz]

—PROFILE: “The Sarah Palin of Israel” by Ricky Ben-David: The most powerful woman in Israel’s ruling Likud party has just moved into a trailer. Knesset member Miri Regev, the party’s attack dog and the closest thing Israel has to Sarah Palin, boarded the mobile home—attached to an Audi SUV—last week ready to crisscross the country campaigning for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a man who never wanted her to be the face of the party to so many Israelis.” [DailyBeast]

B(D)S: “After more than five hours of debate, ASG Senate narrowly passes NUDivest resolution” by Shane McKeon: “Associated Student Government Senate passed a Northwestern Divest-sponsored resolution early Thursday morning asking the University to divest from six corporations the resolution’s sponsors say violate Palestinians’ human rights.” [DailyNorthwestern] • “University of Toledo Votes Down BDS Resolution” [TabletMag]

HAPPENING TODAY: “Bill de Blasio Slated to Meet With Chief Rabbi of France at Jews-Only Event” by Ross Barkan: “Mr. de Blasio is scheduled to appear at the Park East Synagogue on the Upper East Side with Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, the leader of the French Jewish community. Hosted by Rabbi Arthur Schneier, Mr. Korsia is set to speak to the congregation. Mr. de Blasio’s joint appearance with the French rabbi comes as Mr. de Blasio has been more forcefully denouncing anti-Semitism and forging ties with France.” [Observer]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “New York City Eases Pre-K Rules to Allow Prayer Breaks” by Sharon Otterman: “Starting in September, some children attending taxpayer-funded prekindergarten programs in New York City may have school on Christmas and Thanksgiving. And their school day may be interrupted by a period for religious prayers. The new rules are a result of a compromise by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration that is intended to increase participation by Orthodox Jewish and other private schools in his signature initiative.”

“Reaction was split among organizations representing Jewish day schools. Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive director of Agudath Israel, an ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization, supported the changes and predicted they would lead to at least a modest increase in participation. But Maury Litwack, the director of state political affairs for the Orthodox Union, called them “cosmetic.” [NYTimes] • “Orthodox Union: Mayor de Blasio’s Changes to Universal Pre-K Program are Inadequate; Do Not Solve Needs of Yeshiva & Jewish Day School Community” [OU]

DESSERT: “Contrary to Post Report, Everything Is Kosher in the Food Cart Wars” by Aisling Brennan: “On Monday, Yisroel Mordowitz, the owner of the targeted Holy Rollers kosher food cart, contacted the Observer to provide further color on the incident between his cart and the other vendors. “The truth is that I’m not the first person they’ve done it to, and I’m not the last person they’ll do it to,” Mr. Mordowitz. “I was hoping that the article [in the Post] would be written in a light that would expose their tactics and I wouldn’t have to take that extra step. What occurred before had nothing to do with Israel or Palestine, or Jews and Muslims.” [Observer]

That’s all folks; have a great day!
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