Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: Recap of Frontline’s ‘Netanyahu at War’ documentary | Israel’s choice for 2016 | NYT interviews Kissinger & Wieseltier on mens fashion

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ARENA UPGRADE: AIPAC emails activists… “Due to the tremendous growth of the conference, we have exceeded the limits of the Convention Center’s seating capacity for our general sessions. We are excited to introduce the Verizon Center as a new Policy Conference venue. Located three blocks from the Convention Center, this world-class event space will host three general sessions that will offer delegates an unrivaled experience.”

MUST WATCH — ‘Netanyahu at War’ on Frontline: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is one of the most polarizing political leaders on the world stage. His hardline politics on Iran and Israeli-Palestinian affairs have won him both intense support and bitter criticism at home and abroad — all the more so after his dramatic attempt in March to derail President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran in front of the U.S. Congress. With new waves of violence between Israelis and Palestinians unfolding and Israel-U.S. relations already emerging as a 2016 campaign issue, FRONTLINE presents Netanyahu at War — an epic, two-hour documentary from veteran filmmaker Michael Kirk tracing Netanyahu’s path to power, his combative relationships with multiple U.S. presidents and the implications in America and the Middle East.” Watch the documentary [PBS]

The documentary features interviews with Ben Rhodes, David Axelrod, Sandy Berger, Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross, George Mitchell, Phil Gordon, Marvin Kalb, Saeb Erakat, Ron Dermer, former Netanyahu advisor Eyal Arad, Dore Gold, Tzipi Livni, Michael Oren, MK Tzachi Hanegbi, former minister Dan Meridor, Aaron David Miller, Elliott Abrams, Jeffrey Goldberg, Ronen Bergman, Peter Beinart, Chemi Shalev, Ari Shavit, Dana Weiss, David Sanger, David Remnick and Peter Baker.

Top Quotes: Rhodes defended decision to advise Obama to skip stopping in Israel during trip to Cairo and the Middle East: “I’ve lived in this job for seven years and have learned repeatedly that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Frankly, I see it as a lose-lose proposition. Whatever we were going to do was not going to be the right thing for this particular Israeli government.” Axelrod admits it was a mistake: “I think if we were to do this all over again, I think we should’ve added a stop there.”

Shalev on POTUS demanding a settlement freeze in first meeting with Netanyahu: “This shocked Netanyahu and the people around Netanyahu. It sort of gave proof to the people who’ve been whispering in Netanyahu’s ears that this guy is up to no good. Netanyahu recognized in Obama, suddenly, a person who was hell-bent on setting up a Palestinian State.”

MK Hanegbi: “I remember him coming back from his first meeting with President Obama with something that tells him that there’s going to be a different president – a super intelligent lawyer, who is probably a brilliant man, who has ideas, goals, and a vision but something – what we call in hebrew – the ‘Neshoima’ (the soul) is too cold to be connected to Israel.”

Erekat: “It was 4:00am, I hear shouting, real shouting – screaming 4:00am in the morning. President Clinton shouting from the depths of his stomach, and head, and ears, and eyes, and nose, and mouth and legs at Bibi Netanyahu.”

Indyk: “When Bibi gets upset, he starts screaming and pounding the table.”

Indyk on Netanyahu and the Iran deal debate: “I think this is for him the fight of his life – he’s no longer rational about it. A rational Prime Minister of Israel, understanding the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, would not confront the president on the most important agreement that he has managed to negotiate in his presidency.”

Axelrod: “I remember a time when I worked in the WH and I went to find the president and he was just staring into space; he was very contemplative. And I asked, ‘What’s on your mind?’ he said: ‘You know, I think I’m the closest thing to a Jew who has ever sat in this office. I feel very close to the community and it hurts to be depicted somehow as hostile to the community. It bothers me.'”

Axelrod on 2012: “There is no doubt in my mind that [Netanyahu] and Dermer had placed their bets on the Republicans winning in 2012.”

Aaron David Miller: “We do not have an Israeli or Palestinian leader right now – or an American president, frankly – who’s prepared to pay the price of what it would take to lay the basis for a conflict-ending agreement.”

Extras — Full Interviews: David Axelrod [PBS• Dore Gold: “You Can’t Try and Railroad Israel” [PBS]

Screenshot: Dermer munching on an apple in the Oval Office while Obama demands a settlement freeze from Bibi [Pic]

Producer Michael Kirk on HuffPostLive: “As I dove into Netanyahu’s past, I came to realize that Netanyahu was an American, basically. English is really his first language in lots of ways. People in Israel tell us that when he gets into an argument, he starts in Hebrew but when he wants to really make his points he, automatically, switches to English.” The effect the death of Yoni had on Netanyahu was “profound,” said Kirk, basing it on the many conversations he had working on the documentary. “I think in memory of his brother, his actions are even more forceful at times. He operates, really, in the world sphere as a man with a grudge; as a man who has something formidable to protect, and as a man who’s unafraid of stepping up and taking on whatever challenges there are.” [JIHuffPostLive]

J.J. Goldberg: “Most significant, the film avoids the tendency of many of Benjamin Netanyahu’s critics to depict him as a cynic devoted solely to maintaining power.” [Forward]

TOP TALKER: “North Korea Announces That It Has Detonated First Hydrogen Bomb” by David Sanger: “For the Obama administration, which only six months ago defused the Iranian nuclear threat with an agreement to limit its capabilities for at least a decade, the announcement rekindles the another major nuclear challenge – one that the administration has never found a way to manage. With the latest detonation, three of the North’s four tests will have occurred during the Mr. Obama’s term in office.” [NYTimesWashPost• “Iran State TV Shows Off Nuclear-Capable Missiles in Underground Depot” [NBCNews]

“The Saudis Are Rightly Concerned About Iran” by Dennis Ross: “In effect, by provocatively executing the nation’s leading Shiite cleric, the Saudis are drawing their own red line with Iran because they doubt that the U.S. will. For understandable reasons, the Obama administration does not want to see a worsening of the Sunni-Shiite conflicts in the region. But are the Saudis the sole source of this? Or has Iran, in Iraq, in Syria, in Bahrain and in Yemen added much to this? And will they provide additional material support to their proxies once they receive sanctions relief? Nearly all of America’s friends in the region, including both Arabs and Israelis, are convinced they will and are watching to see how the U.S. responds.” [NYTimes]

2016 WATCH: “This is probably Israel’s choice for the 2016 election” by Shmuel Rosner: “As some Americans know – but few Israelis – Cruz and Rubio, while both highly supportive of Israel, are locked in a vicious battle for votes, but also in one over foreign policy. Their respective views on Syria, for example, put them at odds on a core question: What is America’s role in the world? Israelis think about Syria more like a Cruz than like a Rubio. They tend to be a coldhearted realists, rather than idealists hoping to reform and heal a bruised Middle East… Yet Cruz also misses a point: that is, if by linking his line of thinking to Israel’s realism, he aims to win the Israel primary. Indeed, Israelis are cold-hearted realists – yet they are apprehensive of the cold-hearted American realist.” [JewishJournal]

Rubio donors express concern: “The move to find bigger space inside the Beltway also comes after vocal concerns from billionaire donors like Paul Singer that Rubio was running too small an operation, one bereft of the scope needed to win the White House.” [Politico]

Trump in New Hampshire: “Trump during rally in NH, citing the Iran deal, asks supporters, “Who would make this deal?” One man shouted, “A Muslim!” Trump asked him to repeat the remark, saying he hadn’t heard it the first time. “Okay, I didn’t say it. I didn’t say it! Oh, I’m supposed to reprimand the man! Who’s the man that said that. I have to reprimand [him].How dare you.. He then turned to the TV cameras, saying, “I reprimanded him. Now the press can’t be angry.” [DailyMail]

Jonah Goldberg: “Enough with the nutty ‘neocon’ charge, Ted Cruz” [NYPost]

Rabbi David Wolpe: “Why Americans Are So Angry About Everything: When we think things should get better, it’s infuriating when they do not” [TimeMag]

HEARD YESTERDAY: President Obama announces gun control executive action — “Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well. And we have to be able to balance them. Because our right to worship freely and safely — that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina. (Applause.) And that was denied Jews in Kansas City. And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek. (Applause.) They had rights, too. (Applause.)” [TranscriptVideo] • “Jewish leaders endorse, critique Obama’s actions to curb gun violence” [JewishJournal]

William Daroff emails… “Jewish Federations applaud the Obama administration for allocating $500 million to increase access to mental health care. We praise President Obama for taking this vital step to help those in need.”

HILL EXIT: “Steve Israel says he won’t seek re-election to Congress” by David M. Schwartz:“Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) won’t seek re-election to a ninth term in November in order to spend more time writing his second book, he said Tuesday. He said he is “looking forward to spending more time home and frequenting my beloved New York diners. Simply put, it’s time to pass on the torch.” He will complete his term and retire at the end of the year.” [NewsDay]

“Why Donna Edwards is struggling for money in her quest for a Senate seat” by Rachel Weiner: “Along with courting state politicians, Van Hollen has neutralized some of Edwards’s potential national support. J Street, a liberal Jewish group, says it is backing both candidates.” [WashPost]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: “This Jewish billionaire just became New York’s most eligible bachelor” [NYPost• “Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison wants to sell his Hawaiian airline” [BusinessInsider] • “Israel’s Worst Stock in 2015 Was Part of Plan to Revive Trading” [Bloomberg• “Davos conference goes all new age-y this year” [NYPost] • “Noah Kraft’s Doppler Labs’ Here earbud processors will be publicly available this year” [TheVerge

STARTUP NATION: “Tmura Grants Over $2,000,000 to Israeli Youth and Education Programs in 2015: Proceeds for these contributions were generated from, among other things, a record number of deals in 2015, including public offerings of CyberArk, ReWalk and Kornit, as well as exits from eXelate, Checkmarx, Panaya, Panoramic Power, BillGuard, WatchDox and others.  All of these companies had donated options to Tmura when they were still privately held.”  [EJP]

MEDIA WATCH: “Sheldon Adelson Pours $7M Into Pro-Israel Propaganda Website — Then Cuts Off Cash” by Josh Nathan-Kazis: “The Adelson Family Foundation provided 96% of the revenues of reThink Israel Initiative, the tiny organization behind the website, in 2014, and 25% in 2013. The foundation gave it no money in 2015, and no longer funds the group. While the reach of the From the Grapevine website is hard to gauge, its parent, reThink Israel, has been a source of employment and revenue for people close to Adelson and to the group’s founder, a former CEO of the contact lens giant Bausch & Lomb named Gerald Ostrov.” [Forward]

Jack Shafer: “If Sheldon Adelson Really Wants to Control the Press, He’s 100 Years Too Late” [PoliticoMag]

VIRAL: “The Dress Code for Power Lunching at the Four Seasons” by John Ortved: “When news broke that the Four Seasons Restaurant would be leaving its landmark home in the Seagram Building in Midtown Manhattan, a collective gasp could be heard in the city’s corridors of power. On a recent Friday, the tables were filled with famous diners, some of whom took a moment to talk about what they wore to lunch.” [NYTimes]

Lewis Eisenberg. Occupation: Finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. Age: 73 Is that a power tie? I don’t know. What’s on it? Can you tell? There are rabbits hatching out of Easter eggs. I’m no biologist, but that’s not how rabbits are born. It’s a tie to show uniqueness. Where is your pinstripe suit from? It’s custom-made. Can you tell me from where? I better not because I’d alienate two others. And you’ve got your American flag pin. My American flag, if you notice, has got a small Republican elephant. Who is the best-dressed candidate? At this point? Carly Fiorina.

Leon Wieseltier. Occupation: Writer and editor. Age: 63 Are you a regular? I come here sometimes. I’m just lunching with my friend Dr. Kissinger. What did you have for lunch? We had the white truffle risotto. Both of us. It was very good. Tell me about your suit. The jacket is Zegna. The jeans are Levi’s. The boots are M.L. Leddy’s from Fort Worth, Tex. And, what will you miss about this place? It’s spacious. People are spaced far apart so you can actually have conversations. Do you have a favorite memory here? Too many; too many. Nothing that sticks out? Nothing that I’m going to tell you.

Henry Kissinger. Occupation: Former diplomat. Age: 92. May I ask you where your suit is from? My what? Where did you get your suit? I have no idea. How was lunch? I think we’ve done enough. O.K. Thanks so much.

DESSERT: “New Israeli Beers Inspired by Yiddishkeit Klezmer Orchestra” by Libby Sperling: “Vilde Haye is a quirky new Israeli boutique beer brand inspired by an imaginary klezmer orchestra and its colorful members. The concept started out as a final project by a group of design students from the Max Stern Academic College of Emek Yezreel. The students hoped that presenting actual, live beer during their final project would help take the edge off an otherwise stressful experience, said Itay Tzuker, one of the brand’s founders. But they quickly became serious about their goofy idea, and started working on the actual beer making.” [Haaretz]

BIRTHDAYS: KKR’s Henry Kravis turns 72… Canadian businessman Seymour Schulich turns 76… University of Chicago Chemistry Professor Stuart A. Rice turns 84… AJWS alum Jodi Lynn Jacobson, now editor-in-chief and president of RH Reality Check…

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