Good Thursday morning!
Tonight at 9 p.m. ET, President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will participate in the second and final televised debate, which will include a focus on foreign policy.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz will meet with Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the Pentagon later today to discuss “very important issues relating to Israel’s security.”
Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a bill on Tuesday adding additional congressional oversight to sales of F-35 fighter jets and other advanced military equipment to the United Arab Emirates.
Menendez — the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee — also released a new report yesterday castigating the Trump administration for turning the U.S. into a “destabilizing global force” with its foreign policy.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) emphasized his adamant opposition to the BDS movement in JI’s candidate questionnaire. Read his full responses here.
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Documenting the ‘Surge’ of female congressional candidates
Is it a moment or a movement?That is the question filmmakers Wendy Sachs and Hannah Rosenzweig seek to answer in their new movie, “Surge,” which follows three first-time female politicians — all Democrats trying to flip Republican-held districts — who ran for Congress in 2018. Sachs spoke to Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro about filming the movie and about her hopes for female candidates this November.
Fired up:“What we’re seeing in 2020 is that it absolutely is a movement,” Sachs told JI in a recent phone interview. “What we’re seeing is very encouraging. The grassroots activism is continuing in 2020, the levels of engagement are continuing in 2020, more women are running in 2020. The electorate — they’re fired up.” The film, which premiered on Showtime last month and was released on Amazon and iTunes this week, spotlights congressional candidates Liz Watson in Indiana, Jana Lynne Sanchez in Texas and Lauren Underwood in Illinois.
One side: When they first set out to make the film, Sachs said, they thought they would include both Republican and Democratic women running for office. But, she said, “as the story unfolded over those years of filming, it was very clear that it was a blue wave that was happening.” A record number of women ran for Congress in 2018 — 476 — and a record high were elected: 102. But only 120 of the women running were Republicans, as were just 13 of those who won their races. Only one — Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV) — was newly elected in 2018.
Big win:Sachs and Rosenzweig began filming on the ground in Texas, Indiana and Illinois before they knew if the candidates would win their primaries, let alone if any would emerge victorious in November. Ultimately just one of the three women — Underwood — won her race, beating four-term Republican incumbent Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and becoming the youngest black woman ever elected to Congress. “I don’t know if we would have been able to sell the film, quite honestly… if we didn’t have a winner,” said Sachs. “Lauren on election night is so incredibly compelling and emotional, and you’re just smiling all through that last half hour.”
Looking ahead:This year, the record of female candidates running for the House of Representatives was shattered once again, with 584 women filing election paperwork for the 2020 cycle. And this time around, 227 are Republicans, close to double the figure seen in 2018. Sachs is hoping the film will highlight not just female candidates, but female campaign staff, political operatives and voters. “We want to get as many eyeballs as we can on the film, because we think that this film is really about galvanizing the critical female vote for 2020,” she said. “So we need to make sure no one’s on the sidelines, and everyone gets really inspired to go vote.”
Race to Watch
In Las Vegas’s suburbs, Rep. Susie Lee fights a wrestler for reelection
Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) is in the midst of a tough fight to keep her seat. In 2018, she won the general election by nine points, claiming the seat that had up until that point been held by now-Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV). This election, she’s facing Dan Rodimer — a 6’7” former World Wrestling Entertainment fighter who goes by the nickname “Big Dan” — an outspoken Trump supporter who touts endorsements from a range of law enforcement groups. Lee spoke with Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod about her tenure in Congress and the tight race head.
Deep ties: Lee’s ties to the Jewish community run deep. Growing up in Canton, Ohio, Lee spent much of her childhood at the local Jewish Community Center, where she swam and worked as a lifeguard. Her mother also taught swimming lessons there, and several of Lee’s seven siblings worked as lifeguards. To this day, Lee chokes up talking about her childhood. “My family’s participation with the Jewish Center… certainly was instrumental in setting me on my life’s course,” the congresswoman told Jewish Insider, her voice thick with emotion. “The Jewish Center basically provided my entire family with employment. We were all lifeguards… The aid that my family received was really important.”
On the Hill: During her time in Congress, Lee has generally fallen within the Democratic Party’s mainstream on issues relating to Israel and the American Jewish community. She cosponsored last year’s resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, as well as a resolution lauding the recent Abraham Accords and other legislation supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship. She traveled to Israel in both 2018 and last year with the AIPAC-affiliated American Israel Education Foundation. “You realize just how small the country is and how unfriendly its neighbors are,” Lee said of the trips. “But more importantly, how incredibly important [Israel] is as an ally to the United States and why the support of the United States to Israel is so incredibly important. And it’s not just militarily. I think that we have so many opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Roots of hate: In order to fight antisemitism and other forms of hatred and intolerance, the congresswoman believes the U.S. must foster — on a broader scale — the same understanding that she developed growing up. “A lot of hatred in antisemitism, Islamophobia, etc., really evolves from a lack of understanding,” she posited. “And I think that’s an important piece of us continuing to build a more just society, and making sure that we understand each other and approach each other with a level of understanding. And I think that, sadly, that is vastly lacking at this point in time, and I hope we can begin to heal and improve that.”
Lee Zeldin, Haim Saban draw contrasts between Trump and Obama, Biden on Israel
A second Donald Trump administration would “do even more to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Israel,” Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) said in a pitch to participants at a virtual candidate forum hosted by the Orthodox Union on Wednesday, highlighting the administration’s Mideast policy achievements.
Not going back: Zeldin praised the Trump administration’s record on Israel, contrasting it with the way the Obama administration handled the U.S.-Israel relationship since he entered Congress in 2015. “Finally our country was starting to treat Israel like Israel and Iran like Iran, and I do not want to go back to my experience of my first term,” Zeldin, who is running for reelection in New York’s 1st congressional district, told the group. “I would love to see us build on his progress.”
Dream big: “Israelis know that President Trump has had their back every step of the way,” Zeldin continued. “Just think of the possibilities if President Trump has four more years in office. Because, with President Trump, he does not wake up the next day and look to just move on to the next unrelated battle. When he scores a win, he asks himself and asks his advisors, ‘What else can we do?’ That’s why we’ve had so many successes in strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship — because the president wakes up the next day saying that he wants to accomplish even more.”
Takeaways: Earlier this week, the OU hosted a conversation with surrogates from former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. Nathan Diament, the OU’s executive director for public policy who moderated the events, told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh that both campaigns made an effort to convince the more than 1,000 participants — mostly from the key battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania — that their candidate has a better record on an issue they care about. “The core argument that the Biden campaign wants to make to this community is that Joe Biden has a long record of being a friend of Israel,” Diament said. “And I think, implicitly, they are trying to reassure people in the Orthodox community who perceive the Obama years as bad, that a Biden administration is not going to be a return to those years. And the core arguments that the Trump representatives, very explicitly, made was that it was the Obama-Biden administration, and electing [Biden] would be a return to the policy of daylight and tension between the U.S. and Israel.”
Matching records: In a separate Zoom call hosted by the Biden campaign yesterday, Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban said Trump’s moves on Israel were largely symbolic. He compared the Jerusalem embassy move to a “bar mitzvah,” noting that only one country, Guatemala, followed the U.S. lead and moved its embassy to Jerusalem. Saban was also skeptical that the president’s withdrawal from the Iran deal had bolstered Israel’s security. “In the test of results — where are we from a security standpoint — we have Iran opening a new front against Israel from Syria and we have Iran with three times more enriched uranium,” Saban explained. “You draw your own conclusion.” Highlighting Biden’s longstanding support for Israel, Saban said, “The facts speak for themselves. Facts, you know, are a very stubborn thing. Look at the track record. And all Jews in America [who] care about the U.S.-Israel alliance know that they can sleep peacefully as far as Israel’s security goes under a Biden presidency.”
A first: Comedic legend Mel Brooks, 94, released his first-ever political endorsement yesterday — urging voters to support Biden — with his son and grandson standing distant behind a glass door.
ON THE hill
Senate resolution lauding Abraham Accords gains vast backing
Details:The resolution, introduced on September 17 by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Todd Young (R-IN) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), has been cosponsored by 91 senators as of Wednesday morning, according to an AIPAC list tracking the legislation’s backers. The resolution praises the normalization agreements as “historic achievements” that open up new possibilities in the fields of tourism, business, security and culture. It also reaffirms the Senate’s support for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Not on board:The legislation remains open for additional signatures, but as of Wednesday morning, eight Democrats and one Republican had yet to sign on, according to the AIPAC list, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
Other chamber: The Senate resolution is similar to a bipartisan House resolution, introduced on September 15, which has also gained broad support, with a majority of legislators signing on. According to an AIPAC list, 40 Democrats, 23 Republicans and one Libertarian had not signed on as of Wednesday morning, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Steve King (R-IA) and Maxine Waters (D-CA).
💪 Corridors of Power: In The Wall Street Journal, Brody Mullins and Julie Bykowicz spotlight Trump fundraiser and prolific lobbyist Brian Ballard — who opened an office in Tel Aviv earlier this year run by former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) — and how he has “leveraged a relationship with the president to power a fast-growing firm.” [WSJ]
🗄️ From the Archives: A resurfaced clip of Donald Trump from 1991, speaking about white nationalist David Duke’s failed bid for governor of Louisiana, shows Trump calling George H.W. Bush’s condemnation of Duke a tactical error: “I think Bush — if David Duke runs, David Duke is going to get a lot of votes. Whether that be good or bad, David Duke is going to get a lot of votes.” [Slate]
🛳️ Restarting: In The Financial Times, Frederic Hof — who led U.S. mediation efforts between Israel and Lebanon a decade ago — posits that the nations’ ongoing talks should use as a starting point “the results produced in 2012 by an intensive, good-faith mediation.” [FT]
Around the Web
🚔 Attack Arrests:Seven British nationals were arrested in connection with a car-ramming attack on a policeman outside the Israeli Embassy in Paris earlier this week.
🗳️ Tight Race: An internal campaign poll shared with Jewish Insidershows 62-year-old Democrat Moe Davis slightly ahead of 25-year-old Republican Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina’s historically red 11th district.
⚠️ Election Interference: U.S. intelligence officials say Iran and Russia have obtained U.S. voter data and that Iran has targeted voters with threatening emails.
☝️ Taking Action: The Trump administration is reportedly considering labeling international NGOs — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam — as antisemitic.
🖼️ Weighing In: Six Democratic members of Congress expressed alarm that the U.S. solicitor general filed a brief in favor of Germany’s position in an upcoming Holocaust art restoration SCOTUS case.
🤫 Under Wraps: Israel has reportedly been operating a secret embassy in Bahrain for more than a decade.
🤝 Step by Step: Pompeo announced yesterday that the U.S. has begun the process of removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and is working “diligently” to facilitate a normalization deal with Israel. A U.S. and Israeli delegation reportedly visited Sudan yesterday.
🎁 Gift Box:Israel’s Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis predicted that the Trump administration will roll out another peace deal between Israel and an Arab country before November 3.
🏥 Update:Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat underwent a bronchostomy to examine the condition of his respiratory system at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.
🚢 Bidding War:A Turkish company is joining a conglomerate of U.S. and U.K. investors bidding for control of Israel’s largest seaport.
🤳 Crack Down: TikTok will start the process of banning hateful content, antisemitic stereotypes and white nationalist posts.
📦 Big Bust: Officials in Paraguay discovered $500 million worth of cocaine hidden in a shipment of charcoal bound for Israel.
📵 Calling it Quits: Jeffrey Katzenberg’s mobile streaming platform Quibi is shutting down just six months after its disappointing launch.
🏖️ Heading South: Paul Singer’s Elliott Management hedge fund is relocating its headquarters from New York to Florida.
🔒 Startup Nation: Heather Bellini, a partner at Goldman Sachs, has joined Israeli cybersecurity startup Deep Instinct as its CFO.
🎥 Coming Soon:Netflix released the first promo for “MANK,” a drama chronicling the life of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, which will hit the platform in December.
🥣 Stirring the Pot: Ukraine and Russia are locked in a battle over… who can claim borscht as part of its cultural heritage on the UNESCO world heritage list.
Song of the Day
Australian philanthropist and long-time chairman of Westfield Corporation, owner of shopping malls across the globe which he sold in June 2018, Frank Lowy turns 90…
Founder and national director of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) of the Orthodox Union, he then served for nearly twenty years as EVP of the Orthodox Union, Rabbi Pinchas Stolper turns 89… Pioneer of the venture capital and private equity industries, he founded Apax Partners, Alan Patricof turns 86… Soon to be retired EVP and chief professional officer of the Orthodox Union, he was previously chairman of NYC-based law firm Proskauer Rose, Allen Fagin turns 71… Actor who starred in many high-grossing films such as “Jurassic Park,” “Independence Day” and sequels of both of those, Jeff Goldblum turns 68… Katonah, N.Y., resident, David C. Hochberg turns 64… Partner at SKDKnickerbocker and an on-air CNN political analyst, Hilary Rosen turns 62… Composer and lyricist, he has won a Grammy, an Emmy and a Tony, and been nominated for seven Oscars, Marc Shaiman turns 61…
Author of two novels and three other books, Susan Jane Gilman turns 56… Bethesda, MD resident, Eric Matthew Fingerhut turns 50… Chief of staff of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Michelle Gordon turns 49… Actor best known for playing D.J. Conner on the long-running series “Roseanne” and its spin-off show, “The Conners,” Michael Fishman turns 39… VP of West End Strategy Team, Samantha Friedman Kupferman turns 37… Dana Tarley Sicherman turns 35… Psychotherapist with a private practice in White Plains, Maayan Tregerman, LCSW-R turns 33… Journalist and author, Ross Barkan turns 31… Actor and producer, best known for his roles as a child actor starting at 6 years old, Jonathan Lipnicki turns 30… Writer in New York, Peter Fox… Journalist in Los Angeles, Ryan Torok…