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TOP TALKER: "Administration Official Criticises Israeli Ambassador Over Netanyahu Visit" by Julie Hirschfeld Davis in the New York Times: "The Obama administration, after days of mounting tension, signaled on Wednesday how angry it is with Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted Republican leaders’ invitation to address Congress on Iran without consulting the White House. The outrage the episode has incited within President Obama’s inner circle became clear in unusually sharp criticism by a senior administration official who said that the Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer, who helped orchestrate the invitation, had repeatedly placed Mr. Netanyahu’s political fortunes above the relationship between Israel and the United States. The official who made the comments to The New York Times would not be named, and the White House declined to comment."

"In a telephone interview late Wednesday, Mr. Dermer said, “I have no regrets whatsoever that I have acted in a way to advance my country’s interests.” He said he never meant to slight the White House by keeping the confidence of the House speaker, who had suggested the invitation. He said he left it to Mr. Boehner to notify Mr. Obama’s team... American and Israeli officials said that Mr. Dermer, in the course of a lengthy meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry just before Mr. Netanyahu’s speech was announced, never mentioned it. In response, the White House has called the invitation a breach of diplomatic protocol and announced that Mr. Obama would not meet with Mr. Netanyahu when he visits." [NYTimes]

CAMEOS --- Daniel Kurtzer: “He’s a political operative, he’s not really an ambassador,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former United States ambassador to Israel. “What he did was totally unacceptable from a standpoint of diplomacy. To think about going behind the back of a friendly country’s administration and working out this kind of arrangement with the parliament or the Congress — it’s unheard-of.” Mr. Kurtzer said while it was unlikely the Obama administration would take the extraordinary step of declaring Mr. Dermer “persona non grata” — the official method for a foreign diplomat to be ousted from a country — it could request that Mr. Dermer by reprimanded or removed."

Frank Luntz: "He’s more direct than they are, he’s less judicious with his words, but he makes it up with principle,” said Mr. Luntz, who taught Mr. Dermer at the University of Pennsylvania before hiring him in 1993. “He’s got tremendous courage and he’s prepared to take a principled risk. I don’t know anyone who is as focused on a specific goal and is prepared to walk through brick walls to get there.”

Matt Brooks: “Dermer had been “extremely strong and successful” at his most important tasks, which are to represent Israel’s interests and defend Mr. Netanyahu’s prerogatives at a critical time for Israel’s security. This administration has repeatedly sought to both undermine and embarrass this prime minister, and the same Democrats who now profess to be so outraged by this have been notably silent,” Mr. Brooks said. “When the dust settles on this — and the dust will settle — I think that he’ll continue to be effective on the range of issues that are important to Israel’s security.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami: “To be an ambassador, you need to be a representative of your country to the entirety of the other country, and that has not been his role to date.” 

---Nathan Diament tweets: "Useful to recall Amb. Dermer and the NYTimes have history [JPost] when reading the Times piece today" [Twitter]

Amb. Dermer to Judy Woodruff of PBS NewsHour on Iran: "The reason why you have a problem in Syria is because of Iran, because of Iran’s support for Assad. Why is Lebanon not free today?  Because of Iran through its proxy, Hezbollah. Iran is responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran controls four Arab capitals. They control — effectively control Iraq, large parts of Iraq. They control Syria through Assad. They control Lebanon through Hezbollah. They control Gaza in their support of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and they’re now going to control Yemen, and they’re doing all of this without a nuclear weapon." [PBS]

Pelosi Expresses Misgivings to Netanyahu: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said she spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express her misgivings about his plans to address Congress shortly before elections in Israel and at a sensitive time in multicountry negotiations to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear program." [WSJ; TheHill]

Democrats to Boehner: Postpone Netanyahu speech: "Three House Democrats are circulating a letter they plan to send to Speaker John Boehner, urging the top Republican to “postpone” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress. Reps. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Maxine Waters of California said Boehner’s invitation for Netanyahu to speak March 3 is “harmful for three reasons: it undermines the president’s foreign policy; it puts a close ally in the middle of a domestic political debate, and it elevates a candidate in a foreign election.” [Politico]

"GOP's Invitation to Netanyahu Is Aiding Obama's Cause on Iran" by Jeremy W. Peters: "President Obama’s relations with Democrats on Capitol Hill have never been especially close. But one man is helping to bring them a little closer together: Benjamin Netanyahu... For months, the issue of imposing sanctions on Iran split many Democrats from the president, as they feared his posture was emboldening the government in Tehran to further develop its nuclear program. But Mr. Netanyahu’s planned speech, a provocation of the president that many Democrats found distasteful and undiplomatic, has helped shift the political dynamic." [NYTimes

TOP-OPS: "Showdown on the Beltway" by David Suissa: "All this brouhaha about “Bibigate” is a distraction from the one thing that matters most: If Obama is unwilling to play hardball with Iran, the deal on the table will be a bad deal. All the rest is commentary." [JewishJournal] • Peter Beinart: "By blatantly dissing Obama, Bibi is endangering his support among the 'Jacksonians' who support Israel the most" [Haaretz]

"Israel says Hezbollah not interested in escalating violence: Israel said on Thursday it received a message from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah that it was backing away from further violence, a day after the worst deadly clashes in years erupted along the border. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel had received a message from a U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon that Hezbollah was not interested in further escalation." [Reuters] • "Lebanese-Israeli border area quiet after concerns of another war erupting" [WashPost] • "Muhammed al-Deif lives" [AlMonitor]

HAPPENING TODAY: At 12pm, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy hosts a panel Reports from across the Green Line: Politics and Policy in Israel and the West Bank" with Dennis Ross, David Makovsky, and Ghaith al-Omari.

2016 WATCH: "Hillary Clinton, expecting no major challenge for the Democratic nomination, is strongly considering delaying the formal launch of her presidential campaign until July, three months later than originally planned, top Dems tell Playbook. The delay until summer, from the original April target, would give her more time to develop her message, policy and organization, outside the chaos and spotlight of a public campaign." [Playbook

---"Report: Marco Rubio's wife hits supporter's car" [Politico] • "I’ve been convinced for a while the Senator Rubio is the right candidate for the party’s presidential nomination,” said Wayne Berman, a top lobbyist, Republican Jewish Coalition member and experienced campaign hand for every GOP presidential effort since 1980" [MiamiHerald] • "Bobby Jindal's Super PAC Makes Its 2016 Pitch To Donors" [BuzzFeed] • "Hillary Clinton vs. Elizabeth Warren Could Delight Republicans" [NYTimes] • "Hillary looks to Obama digital alums" [Politico] • "Romney Focuses on Income Inequality, Foreign Policy in Mississippi Speech" [WSJ] • "Rick Perry defiant after latest legal setback" [Politico] • "Christie's meeting with Israeli president canceled" [WSJ]

Down Ticket: "Missouri Auditor Schweich to run for governor: Schweich also has benefited from big donors. For example, he's received more than $500,000 since 2009 from Sam Fox, a St. Louis businessman who also gave to groups supporting stem cell research." [TimesUnion]

Jewish Dems email... "This week, it came to light that the American Family Association, an organization classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "hate group," is reportedly paying for a trip for RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and a wide range of Republican elected officials to travel to Israel. The National Jewish Democratic Council is joining the SPLC in calling on the RNC to cancel the trip and to distance itself from the AFA, whose leaders have in the past blamed the Holocaust on homosexuals. The NJDC further called on the Republican Jewish Coalition to denounce the trip."

---"Asked why he organized this trip, David Lane said, “Who’s the best friends of Israel? The 65 to 80 million evangelicals in America who read their Bible and believe in the Abrahamic covenant.” Lane is a longtime behind-the-scenes, evangelical Christian political operative who rarely speaks to the press. In an interview with Haaretz, however, he said his work involves “mobilizing pastors in pews around the country” to be politically involved. In addition to Priebus and his wife, guests include Susie Hudson, who last week was elected RNC secretary, and Jewish conservative radio talk-show host Dennis Prager. After he heard some of the statements made by AFA leaders – as cited by the SPLC on its page designating the conservative Christian organization as a hate group – Prager said: “The only hate group is the Southern Poverty Law Center. They have no other mission in life other than to defame conservatives.” [Haaretz]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: "Ari Emanuel's WME-IMG Acquires Boutique Agency That Reps Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel" [Variety] • "Tepper loses fight to restructure Caesars in Delaware" [NYPost] • "Michael Bloomberg Reorganizes the Godmothership" [PoliticoMag] • "'Shocked' law firm gives Sheldon Silver the boot" [NYPost] • "Community Assessing Fallout From Silver's Fall" [JewishWeek]

STARTUP NATION: "KKR makes Israel tech investment in web analytics firm ClickTale: ClickTale, whose software enables website owners to see how people behave on their sites, has raised $35 million in a funding round led by KKR, marking the U.S. private equity firm's first investment in Israel's tech sector." [Reuters]

---"University President Builds Negev Desert School Into Powerhouse: Rivka Carmi says her penchant for short skirts almost torpedoed her chance to become the first woman dean of an Israeli medical faculty. Now she’s the country’s first and only female university president. The pediatric geneticist’s next goal is to turn Ben-Gurion University of the Negev into an internationally recognized research institution and a leader in cybersecurity work. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who sees Israel as a center for technology and expertise to defend against digital attacks, is lending a hand." [Bloomberg]

REAL ESTATE ROUNDUP: "Norman Sturner's 180 Maiden Lane is getting a $28M renovation" [NYPost] • "Gary Barnett's Extell sells another Ring portfolio building---this one for $40M" [RealDeal] • Jim Tisch said to have purchased Southhampton house for $41M [Bloomberg]

LONGREAD: "Qataris victory seals decades-long struggle for control of Canary Wharf" by Ashley Armstrong: "The creation of London’s newest financial district began with a phone call by the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher to Canadian developer Paul Reichmann, telling him he was the only developer in the world “who could do Canary Wharf”. So it is perhaps fitting that – three decades on – the fate of the Wharf has ended with a phone call that has reunited the central figures who have, in turn, ridden to its rescue and attempted to seize control in times of boom and bust."

"When the late Mr Reichmann and George Iacobescu, who will remain chairman of the Canary Wharf group, first arrived in the Docklands site, it was a virtual wasteland without electricity or water, taking its name from the Victorian trade of bananas and tomatoes imported from the Spanish Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. To transform it into the beacon of modern day capitalism took Thatcher’s big bang. However, by the time the first tenants began to make the trek over to east London, the City was engulfed by a downturn and, with London Underground’s Jubilee line extension taking longer than expected, Mr Reichmann failed to attract enough interest in the Docklands. As a result his debt-ridden property company, Olympia & York, toppled into bankruptcy in 1992 – the biggest corporate failure of that time."

Despite the collapse, an undaunted Mr Reichmann bought back Canary Wharf from the banks three years later for £800m, supported by backers at US investment firm Franklin Mutual and Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed. Then in 2004 Manhattan-based diamond magnate Simon Glick staged a hostile takeover with US bank Morgan Stanley, forming a bid vehicle called Songbird... This latest battle for the Wharf has not disappointed by comparison with its previous protracted takeover battles. The Qataris and Brookfield first had a quiet conversation with the major shareholders in Songbird Estates – Glick, Morgan Stanley and China’s Investment Corporation – about a move to collapse the complex ownership structure. But this attempt at a friendly agreement quickly turned hostile as the approach was leaked." [Telegraph]

"Wife, Mother Of Missing Millionaire Want Him Declared Dead: A South Florida missing man’s wife and mother have been battling it out to have control over his estate but for the first time they are on the same side. Both want him to be officially declared dead so they have access to his money. n the family feud over missing multi-millionaire Guma Aguiar’s fortune, his wife faced off against her mother and sister in-law on Wednesday. The trio have been rivaling over real estate in Israel valued at about $12 million since Guma Aguiar disappeared almost three years ago.​" [CBS]

"Report: Bar Refaeli to marry Adi Ezra: After 30 months together, Israeli international supermodel Bar Refaeli and businessman Adi Ezra are to marry, reports Israeli website Mako. Refaeli, 29, is a well-known top international model. Adi Ezra, 40, serves as chairman of Neto ME Holdings Ltd. (TASE;NTO), one of Israel's largest food importing companies, which was founded by his grandfather." [Globes] • Report: Roman Abramovich married Dasha Zhukova in a secret ceremony six years ago [DailyMail]

"Inspiring doc tells story of US WWII pilots fighting for Israel" by Kyle Smith: "Buying old military planes in California, searching military records for pilots with Jewish-sounding names in New York City and forming a bogus Panamanian airline were some of the ingenious moves by Americans determined to rush to Israel’s aid despite the hostility of the Truman administration, which promised to withdraw citizenship from anyone who joined Israel’s cause and embargoed arms sales to the entire Mideast." [NYPost] • "Night Will Fall': A Documentary Within a Documentary" [Forward]

Bizarre: "Poles Detained a Jewish Leader Trying to Escape Auschwitz" by Katie Zavadski: "The head of Rome's Jewish community got a little more history than he bargained for on Holocaust Remembrance Day, when he was locked in the same concentration camp where his grandparents died, and then arrested while trying to escape. Riccardo Pacifici was doing a live report from Auschwitz for an Italian television station when, suddenly, he and four others found themselves in an abandoned camp with no one around to let them out. After an hour in sub-zero temperatures, they climbed out a window to get out —  and were quickly detained by Polish police." [NYMag; Haaretz]

Endowment Report: "Of schools with endowments of more than $1 billion, only one lost money last year: Yeshiva University, which shrunk 7.6 percent to $1.09 billion, the study found. The Jewish school in New York has struggled to balance its budget since it lost about $100 million when Bernard Madoff, a trustee, was revealed to be a fraud in December 2008." [Bloomberg] • "Albert Einstein med school protests YU leadership" [DailyNews]

George Rohr: "Tackling The Day School Affordability Crisis" in the Jewish Week: "My wife and I have proudly joined with other philanthropists and foundations — including the Avi Chai Foundation, on whose board I am privileged to sit, and the Jim Joseph Foundation — and UJA-Federation of New York to create the Day School Challenge Fund. This $51 million fund, initially conceived of by UJA-Federation, is designed to encourage day schools in the New York metropolitan area to launch or build their endowments by providing $1 in matching funds for every $3 in new endowment money that participating schools raise." [JewishWeek]

That's all folks; have a great day!
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