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SCENE LAST NIGHT: David Gregory moderated a panel on "The Genius of the Jews" with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and Simon Schama at the 92nd Street Y. Topics included Jewish journeys, the enlightenment, selfies, anti-Semitism, and, of course, Israel. At least 820 people were watching the livestream last evening. Rabbi Sacks announced that in September, "the strongest book I ever wrote" will come out titled, "Not in God's Name."

Rabbi Sacks: "Judaism created this idea of a society of equal dignity. That's been a human search for a very long time and most people have looked at it in either terms of wealth or power. Jews knew that neither of those work, some will always get more wealth or power than others, and therefore they came up with, what I think is the most radical and workable idea of an equal society; equal access to knowledge. With knowledge, the more you share, the more you have. Whereas with power or wealth, the more you share, the less you have. We became the people whose citadels were schools, whose heroes were teachers, and whose passion was study and the life of the mind." [92Y Video]

---"White House condemns beheading of Egyptian Christians in Libya: "The White House on Sunday condemned the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by militants claiming affiliation with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, saying the action “only further galvanizes the international community to unite against ISIL.” [Politico] • "The White House statement did not refer to the hostages as Christians, but only as "Egyptian citizens" and "innocents." [FoxNews]

---David Frum Op: "Why Obama Won't Talk About Islamic Terrorism" [TheAtlantic]

---"Hezbollah: Mossad and the CIA are behind ISIS: Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah claimed Israel is the only country which has not been affected and does not consider the group a threat. "Everything Daesh (ISIS) has done up to now serves Israel's interests one hundred percent," he stated." [YNet] • Ed Royce: "How Obama can blunt the Hezbollah global terror threat" [WashTimes]

TOP TALKER: "U.S. Embedded Spyware Overseas, Report Claims" by Nicole Perlroth and David E. Sanger: "The United States has found a way to permanently embed surveillance and sabotage tools in computers and networks it has targeted in Iran, Russia, Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and other countries closely watched by American intelligence agencies, according to a Russian cybersecurity firm… It linked the techniques to those used in Stuxnet, the computer worm that disabled about 1,000 centrifuges in Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. It was later revealed that Stuxnet was part of a program code-named Olympic Games and run jointly by Israel and the United States." [NYTimes]

REPORTING FROM TEHRAN: NPR's Steve Inskeep interviews Iranian economist Mehdi Behkish on today's Morning Edition. "In Steve’s hand is a small recorder. Normally we’d use a more substantial mic for better sound quality, but discretion is a consideration when reporting in the streets of Tehran." [NPR OTR] • "Many Iranians Eager For Change, Ready For Nuclear Deal" [NPR]

Raymond Tanter Op: "There is no need for cooperation with Iran against the Islamic State, and it is a recipe for expanding Tehran’s revolutionary toxicity to Iraq and Syria. Rather than choosing between bombing Iran and living with a nuclear armed Iran, there is a third way: encouraging a soft revolution in Iran via a coalition of like-minded dissidents. An Iran without the Islamist taint might be in the same category of states like Brazil and Japan, whose nuclear aims are not tarnished by extremist ideology." [ForeignPolicy]

HEARD LAST NIGHT: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Conference of President's of Major American Jewish Organizations last night in Jerusalem: "Tonight I want to address some important questions that have undoubtedly been on your minds. First, why am I going to Washington? I'm going to Washington because as Prime Minister of Israel, it's my obligation to do everything in my power to prevent the conclusion of a bad deal that could threaten the survival of the State of Israel… Second question: Why am I going to Congress? Because Israel has been offered the opportunity to make its case on this crucial issue before the world's most important parliament; because a speech before Congress allows Israel to present its position to the elected representatives of the American people and to a worldwide audience; because Congress has played a critical role in applying pressure to the Iranian regime – the very pressure that has brought the ayatollahs to the negotiating table in the first place; and because Congress may very well have a say on the parameters of any final deal with Iran."

"Why go now? The deadline for reaching an agreement with Iran is March 24th. That's the date that drives the speech. Now is the time for Israel to make its case – now before it's too late. Would it be better to complain about a deal that threatens the security of Israel after it's signed? I believe it's more responsible to speak out now to try to influence the negotiations while they're still ongoing. I think the whole point of Zionism is that the Jewish people would no longer be spectators to the decision-making that determines our fate. Remember, we were once powerless. We were once voiceless. We couldn't even speak on our own behalf. Well, we can and we do now… Now can I guarantee that my speech in Congress will prevent a dangerous deal with Iran from being signed? Honestly, I don't know. No one knows." [Transcript]

Barak Ravid Scoop: "Three Israeli diplomats, some of whom were briefed subsequently on the details of the meeting, told Haaretz that Dermer tried to downplay the crisis with President Barack Obama’s administration. He admitted that Israel would pay a price for Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, they said, but denied that this would deal a mortal blow to the U.S.-Israeli relationship. â€œThere have been such things in the past; you shouldn’t blow this out of proportion,” one diplomat quoted Dermer as saying. “It’s possible to isolate the current dispute from the totality of our relations with the U.S.”.. Dermer made the argument at a meeting in Jerusalem last Wednesday with the heads of Israel’s consulates in North America." [Haaretz] • "Six times that U.S.-Israel ties hit rock bottom" [Haaretz]

---David Ignatius Op: "The perfect storm brews in the Middle East: The decision to reduce the exchange of sensitive information about the Iran talks was prompted by concerns that Netanyahu’s office had given Israeli journalists sensitive details of the U.S. position, including a U.S. offer to allow Iran to enrich uranium with 6,500 or more centrifuges as part of a final deal. Obama administration officials believed these reports were misleading because the centrifuge numbers are part of a package that includes the size of the Iranian nuclear stockpile and the type of centrifuges that are allowed to operate. A deal that allowed 500 advanced centrifuges and a large stockpile of enriched uranium might put Iran closer to making a bomb than one that permitted 10,000 older machines and a small stockpile, the administration argues." [WashPost]

---Mel Levine & Oded Eran Op: "What Netanyahu Can Do To Save U.S.-Israel Ties" in Politico Magazine: "The authors of this column both came to Washington, along with Benjamin Netanyahu, in 1982, when relations between the United States and Israel were particularly tense. Mel Levine served as a Democratic member of Congress, and Oded Eran as counselor for congressional relations at Israel’s embassy." [PoliticoMag]

HEARD THE OTHER NIGHT: Rhoda Dermer, wife of Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, spoke to the International Conference of Chabad Women Emissaries at the New York Hilton… "Attending the banquet with her mother, Dermer spoke of the role of an ambassador’s wife, having “guests in my home nearly every week, describ[ing] a meal for 40 as an intimate gathering” and entertaining dignitaries regularly “with a baby on my hip.” â€œIn fact, when people ask me what it’s like being the wife of Israel’s ambassador, my usual response is: It’s sort of like being the wife of your local Chabad rabbi.” [Chabad]

PIERS MORGAN OP: "Jews didn't desert New York after 9/11 so why on earth does Netanyahu want them to run away now? I’m confused. Very, very confused. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says his country is in imminent danger of being nuked off the face of the earth by Iran. But he wants every Jew to flee terror attacks in the rest of the world…and come to live in Israel? Makes perfect sense, right? Well, no, obviously it doesn’t." [DailyMail]

---@JeffreyGoldberg: "World of difference between depending on outside power to protect you, vs. protecting yourself... Terror is also about feeling helpless and isolated. In any case, comparatively few people die in Israel from terrorism these days" [Twitter]

---Malcolm Hoenlein: "No need to tell European Jews to flee" by Judy Maltz: “I do not believe we should panic or that we should tell people to flee,” Malcolm Hoenlein, long-standing executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told a news conference in Jerusalem. “What we should do is organize an orderly transition for those who want to leave, while ensuring the protection of those who remain. We need to keep demanding that European governments do what they are obliged to do,” Hoenlein said." [Haaretz] • "Jewish leaders rebuff Netanyahu's call for mass migration" -- Abe Foxman, Bent Lexner, David Harris cameos [CNN]

"What it Means to be Jewish in American Politics" by Emma Axelrod, daughter of CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod: "Do American politicians see themselves as American Jews or Jewish Americans? That question, and the cultural stigmas behind it, presents these two competing identities as mutually exclusive: one must be sacrificed to cater to the other. Jewish-American politicians’ efforts to maintain some sort of balance, while creating “political packages” attractive to voters, highlight the challenging decision of how much Judaism should factor into that political package." [BrownPoliticalReview]

2016 WATCH: Mike Huckabee follows Rick Perry's lead with Hassidic dancing in Psagot [Twitter; Gawker] • "The Case for, and Against, Marco Rubio as Republican Presidential Candidate" [WSJ] • "What will Jeb Bush have to say about foreign policy" [WashPost] • "Christie Team Planning Big Push in New Hampshire" [WSJ] • "President Paul? Wall Street on high alert" [Politico]

"Rand Paul Has Passport, Won't Travel" by Olivia Nuzzi: "Since entering the Senate in January 2011, Paul has spent much of his time focused on reimagining America’s role in the world, but he apparently doesn't have much interest in traveling to many of the places he talks about. In his capacity as a federal lawmaker, Paul has traveled abroad just once: to Israel and Jordan in 2013 for a privately funded tour that was described as an “information gathering trip.” [DailyBeast]

LongRead: "Among the Hillary Haters: Can a new, professionalized generation of scandalmongers uncover more dirt on the Clintons—without triggering a backlash" by Hanna Rosin [TheAtlantic] • "David Axelrod quips irritate Clintonland" [TheHill]

ILL SEN: Joe Walsh 'very seriously considering' challenging Sen. Mark Kirk in a primary: "“I am very seriously considering challenging him in a primary,” Walsh told The Hill. “Mark Kirk has got to be challenged.” The one-term lawmaker isn’t backing off his inflammatory comments that made him a conservative star, though, as he weighs a quixotic comeback bid. â€œI think because of his overall physical condition I don't know anyone else would consider challenging him and that's just plain wrong,” he said. “If you privately talk to people who would ordinarily primary him, they'd all say ‘he's got no business running, but I can't challenge him, look at who he is, people are going to say I'm mean spirited because I'm challenging him.’ Because of sympathy for Mark Kirk I don't know of a serious candidate who would challenge him besides me.” [TheHill]

Matt Brooks, Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, tells Jewish Insider… "We are 100% supporting Mark Kirk and am sorry to hear he's being challenged by Joe Walsh. RJC leaders across the country have major fundraisers scheduled for Sen. Kirk and we will do everything in our power to support his re-election."

"Kirk raised $621,998 in the quarter that ended Dec. 31, more than twice what he pulled in during the third quarter and a sign that he is serious when he says he expects to run for re-election next year." [ChicagoBusiness] • "4 U.S. House Dems consider challenging Kirk" [ChicagoTribune]
**Good Tuesday 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**

STARTUP NATION: "Two Israeli CEOs of Massachusetts-based businesses talk about the unique connection between the Start-Up Nation and the Start-Up Commonwealth. Why are they headquartered here? Nadav Efraty, CEO of Desalitech, and Gil Zimmerman, CEO of Cloudlock." [NECN] • "Why is non-stop service between Boston and Israel a big deal for the business people who rely on it?" [NECN]

"DeChellis joins Israeli venture firm OurCrowd as president: Anthony DeChellis, the former head of the private wealth businesses of Switzerland's two biggest banks in the Americas, has been named president and a managing partner of OurCrowd, an Israel-based venture capital firm that raises money through a form of crowd-funding. OurCrowd, which takes its name from the title of a 1967 book about prominent German-Jewish families in New York City, reviews 250 or more deals monthly and picks three to five to invest in… The Israeli company was founded by American-born entrepreneur Jon Medved. Its chairman, Steven Blumgart, was the former codirector of Glencore International Plc's aluminum division." [Reuters]

---Moshe Hogeg: "Industry Disruption Should Head Back To The Future" [TechCrunch] • "Inside Apple's new offices in Herzliya, Israel" [9to5mac]

FYI: "Steep Fees and First-Class Prices, but Private Jets Are Available to More" [NYTimes]

WEEKEND WEDDING: Irene Jefferson, Jake Sherman:
"Irene Beren Jefferson and Jake Sherman were married Sunday at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington… The bride, 30, is an associate in the government affairs practice of the Washington law firm DLA Piper. She is a daughter of Nancy T. Beren and Dr. Larry S. Jefferson of Houston. The groom, 29, is a Washington-based reporter who covers Congress and national politics for Politico. He is a son of Stephanie L. Sherman and Robert I. Sherman of Stamford, Conn. His mother is a nursery-school teacher at Temple Sholom in Greenwich, Conn." [NYTimes] • Playbook: "AN ACTION SHOT of Sherman you’ll never forget – en route the groom’s tisch, the beginning of a traditional Jewish wedding (courtesy James Hohmann)" [Picture; Playbook]

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**
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