Good Monday morning!
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen reportedly secretly flew to Saudi Arabia yesterday and met with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
President-elect Joe Biden is expected to announce his first Cabinet picks tomorrow. Senior foreign policy advisor Tony Blinken is widely reported to be his pick for secretary of state, while Michèle Flournoy is expected to be nominated as defense secretary and Jake Sullivan as national security advisor.
In an interview with Jewish Insider last month, Blinken detailedBiden’s foreign policy approach and shared his own family’s Jewish background. Sullivan said recently that Biden is committed to negotiating “a follow-on agreement” with Iran that advances Israel’s security and holds Iran accountable.
Responding to the Blinken appointment, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) tweeted that she is supportive “So long as he doesn’t suppress my First Amendment right to speak out against Netanyahu’s racist and inhumane policies. The Palestinian people deserve equality and justice.”
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, is expected to be named U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
Yesterday, Netanyahu said during a state memorial ceremony honoring founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion that the incoming Biden administration “must not return to the previous nuclear agreement” with Iran.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who was considered a candidate to be America’s top diplomat, said on Friday that he would only back returning to the 2015 nuclear deal if there’s a “clear path” towards addressing Iran’s missile program.
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back at it
The second coming of Darrell Issa
After a brief spell in the political wilderness, Darrell Issa, the former longtime California congressman and car alarm magnate, is now preparing to rejoin his Republican colleagues in the House — and he wants to make it clear that he hasn’t gotten rusty in the interim. “I’m just a little bit more refreshed,” he said in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel on Friday.
New district: After close to two decades serving California’s 49th district, until 2018, the former congressman is now poised to represent the state’s historically conservative 50th district, which includes a large swath of San Diego County. Despite polling that suggested Issa would have a close race, he prevailed over his Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, by more than eight percentage points. The general election battle was strained as Issa and Campa-Najjar, both of Arab descent, took turns attacking one another over their fealty to Israel — even though, according to questionnaires solicited by JI, they held largely the same views when it comes to the Jewish state.
Middle East affairs: Issa supports a two-state solution and claims that he is “perfectly willing” to engage in good faith with the Palestinian Authority, but he is doubtful that he will be able to do that in the immediate future. He regards the Trump administration’s recent normalization deals with Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates as “an opportunity for the Palestinians to say we would like to normalize relations, let’s sit down and really make that effort anew,” he said. “But so far, I see no movement.” He amended his remark by noting that he has seen “a lot of good people within the Palestinian community who want to go a different way.” But, he added, “I don’t see a Palestinian Authority that’s geared to do it.”
Acknowledging Biden: Issa refused to acknowledge that Trump had lost the election, but he seemed willing to allow for the possibility that Trump wouldn’t be in the White House next term. “I would be much happier if President Trump prevails in these legal challenges,” Issa said, “but for a moment, assuming he didn’t, then our job is to work with the president but not to work for the president.” One issue on which he isn’t willing to budge is the Iran nuclear deal, which President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to reenter. But Issa, who described Iran as “an existential threat to the region,” said he would fight to keep the United States out of it. “The undoing of that agreement,” he said, “and the successes based on a much closer relationship with Israel and asking for and getting Arab nations to come to the table, has worked.”
Business as usual: Issa told JI that the leading Republicans on the three House committees he previously sat on — including judiciary, oversight and foreign affairs — have all asked him back. “The intent,” he said, summarizing his approach as he readies himself for a new term in Congress, “is to return to the committees of jurisdiction I’ve historically been involved with and continue a lot of the work that I was doing on transparency,” he said, adding: “I always tell people, the idea that you’re going to do something new after 18 years — the only thing new is that two years of sitting on the sidelines, waiting to be confirmed, gave me a perspective,” he said. “But it’s not going to change the basic goals that I had when I was in Congress.”
Tufts referendum targets campus police seminars in Israel
Anti-Israel activists at Tufts University are pushing for the school to hold a campus-wide referendum this week condemning the participation of university police in an exchange program with Israeli police forces, reports Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss.
Student showdown: Though the referendum’s text has yet to be approved, a 24-hour online voting period is set to open tomorrow. The referendum is the first of its kind on a college campus, though efforts to terminate relationships and partnerships between American law enforcement officials and Israeli security forces — referred to by anti-Israel activists as “Deadly Exchange” — have been ongoing for several years, both on college campuses and in municipalities. Materials posted on social media by Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine highlight the participation of the university’s former police chief in a 2017 program sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, one of several organizations that have brought police chiefs and other senior officials to Israel for security training.
Best practices: Kevin Maguire, who led the Tufts University Police Department from 2011-2019, told JI that the program he attended largely focused on best practices for handling emergency situations. Maguire, who now runs a Boston-based security consulting form, said the seminar “was a valuable source of information that enhanced the university’s readiness profile to prevent and address such critical safety and security incidents.”
Procedural problems: The referendum, according to several on-campus observers, is expected to proceed despite violations of the Tufts Community Union’s constitution, which lays out the procedures for putting a question to a student body vote. Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine, one of the organizations backing the effort, began collecting signatures before the final referendum text was approved, and the committee tasked with managing elections on the campus failed to hold a mandated forum on the issue ahead of the scheduled vote. Jewish students on campus have pushed back against the effort, organizing a campaign encouraging their peers to vote ‘no’ on the referendum.
Unfit to print: An online magazine published by Tufts SJP earlier this year focusing on police exchange programs between the U.S. and Israel alleged that “Jewish people [are] taught at a young age to unabashedly support Israel’s settler-colonial practices, or worse, join the IDF.” The magazine also includes a drawing with the caption “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Jonathan Pollard celebrates full release as parole restrictions expire
Israeli leaders welcomed the decision by the U.S. Justice Department on Friday to allow the expiration of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard’s parole restrictions, as others cautioned the Israeli public against turning the convicted spy into a hero,Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh reports.
Long journey: Pollard, 66, who was convicted more than three decades ago on charges of spying for the Jewish state, was released on parole in 2015. In 2018, the Justice Department rejected a formal Israeli request to allow Pollard to move to Israel. Last year, Pollard asked the Trump administration to end the restriction so he could both assist his wife, Esther, who was traveling to Israel for cancer treatment, and fulfill a longtime dream of immigrating to Israel. The U.S. Parole Commission told Jewish Insider on Friday that it had ruled “that there is no evidence to conclude that [Pollard] is likely to violate the law.” Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told JI that the move was “long overdue. It should have happened many years ago.”
Welcome to Israel: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who raised Pollard’s situation in meetings with multiple U.S. administrations, welcomed the decision. “I anticipate seeing Jonathan Pollard arrive in Israel soon, together with his wife Esther,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem yesterday. Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein toldThe Jerusalem Post that the Israeli health system “will cooperate with the necessary treatments to enable the Pollards to come home.”
Don’t overdo it: Seymour Reich, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who was one of the first Jewish leaders to strongly advocate for Pollard’s release, cautioned the Israeli public against treating Pollard as a hero. “They should respect him and the prime minister undoubtedly should meet him and greet him. But the Israelis should be careful about the way they greet him, not as a hero but as an individual who helped Israel in trying circumstances,” Reich told JI. “I think it would be harmful to American Jewry if that were to occur — the old issue of dual loyalty might crop up, notwithstanding that the Trump administration released him.” Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert echoed that sentiment, cautioning that the Israeli public’s response to Pollard’s move to Israel could potentially undermine the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Bonus: A handful of former Israeli spies toldThe Daily Beast that Pollard’s activities caused serious, long-lasting damage to the security ties between Israel and the United States.
👴 Living Example: The New York Times’s Matina Stevis-Gridneff profiles Simon Gronowski, an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor living in Brussels who has been entertaining his neighbors with his piano playing amid repeated COVID-19 lockdowns. “Music is a means of communication, of connection,” he said. [NYTimes]
🍃 Blown Away: Forbes reporter Christopher Helman spotlights Michael Polsky, a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant to the U.S. who has become a billionaire in the wind turbine business. “The technology is so good and ripe. You get the conviction that it has to happen,” he said. “The revolution has been won.” [Forbes]
💰 Big Money:The New Yorker’s Charles Duhigg explores how venture capitalists are “deforming capitalism” by becoming “increasingly avaricious and cynical” and kowtowing to the demands of startup founders — instead of mentoring them or working to incubate innovation. [NewYorker]
🤩 Role Model: In The Philadelphia Inquirer, Amy Rosenberg details how Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris who will make history as the first male and first Jewish vice presidential spouse, has become an electrifying figure for young American Jews, inspiring a new “DougHive” fan base. [PhiladelphiaInquirer]
🖋️ End of an Era: Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier posits in Mosaic that the authority of Orthodox rabbis over the American haredi community is waning as “civic-minded philanthropists and charismatic outsiders with inflammatory social-media presences fill the void.” [Mosaic]
Around the Web
🌐 Rushing In: Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power writes in Foreign Affairs that the Biden administration will have to first pursue quick face-saving initiatives in the international arena before tackling big challenges.
🤔 Talk of the Region: Saudi Arabia is preparing for a U-turn in its relationship with the U.S. under President-elect Joe Biden. Saudi Ambassador to the U.N. Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said yesterday that no administration would be “naive enough” to rejoin the 2015 Iran deal.
⚠️ On Edge: Iran has reportedly instructed its regional allies to be on high alert and avoid provoking tensions with the U.S. that could give the Trump administration a reason for military action. The regime has also warned Israel against targeting its posts in Syria.
👩💼 Walk the Walk: A group of female leaders who served in the Defense and State Departments is calling on Biden to counter the gender imbalance in senior national security positions.
👨🏻💼 Mike Check:Bloomberg’s Nick Wadhams posits that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s final global tour, including his trip to Israel, is setting the stage for his future political career.
🇨🇦 Turtle Bay: Jewish organizations are criticizing Canada for voting in favor of a U.N. resolution on Palestinian self-determination, which does not mention Israeli self-determination.
⚔️ Thin Ice:Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz launched a probe into Netanyahu’s purchase of German submarines, revealing further cracks in their already shaky coalition.
📈 New Endeavour:Former Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has reportedly partnered with a senior member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family on a new investment fund.
💪 Glass Ceiling:The annual Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs has ranked Israel as the best place in the world to be a female entrepreneur.
💵 Investor Limits: Israel Aerospace Industries will not offer shares to U.S. buyers in its upcoming IPO, in an attempt to avoid litigation in U.S. courts.
🦗 Bug Battle:An Israeli team is working on the ground in Ethiopia to battle against a plague of locusts destroying the African nation’s agriculture.
💉 Shot in the Dark: Israel has reached a deal with AstraZeneca to buy 10 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, following similar deals with Pfizer, Moderna and Russia’s Sputnik V.
🏥 Strip Surge: Gaza’s healthcare system is nearing its breaking point as it works to tackle surging coronavirus cases in its overcrowded neighborhoods.
🕍 Closed Doors:The New York Postreports that a Hasidic synagogue in Brooklyn hosted a secret indoor wedding with thousands of non-masked attendees, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo called “a blatant disregard of the law” and “disrespectful.”
💲Coming Up Short: Following Michelle Hinchey’s declaration of victory in her New York State Senate race, Democrats are on the verge of securing a veto-proof majority in the body, despite a high-dollar effort from Ron Lauder backing a number of Republican candidates.
⚾ Home Advantage: Cleveland Indians general manager Mike Chernoff announced he is staying with the team, amid rumors he would depart to the New York Mets under new owner Steve Cohen.
💼 Heading for the Exit:CNN President Jeff Zucker is expected to depart CNN in the first quarter of 2021, following Biden’s inauguration.
👨 Transition: Ezra Klein, co-founder of Vox, is leaving the publication to become a columnist and podcast host at The New York Times.
🎼 Going, Going Gone:A trove of Bob Dylan documents, including unpublished lyrics and his thoughts on antisemitism, sold for $495,000 at auction last week.
🎥 Hollywood: A new Holocaust documentary, “Love It Was Not,” explores the real-life relationship between a Jewish Auschwitz prisoner and an Austrian SS officer.
😂 Comedic Effect: Comedian Lewis Black tellsThe Washington Post that his irate demeanor is tied to the fact that “my family was born and raised Jewish. There was a lot of yelling. And my mother is still around and still yells about stuff at 102, so I always thought that anger was a form of love.”
🕯️ Remembering: Herbert Solow, an author and longtime television executive who pitched the “Star Trek” series to NBC, died at age 89. Argentinian-French film director Nelly Kaplan died at age 89. French resistance hero Daniel Cordier died at 100.
Song of the Day
Israeli singer and songwriter Hanan Ben-Ari shares short clips of parents bonding with their children in a new song, titled “An Artist on the Children,” released on Saturday.
United States senator from New York since 1998, elected to his fourth term in 2016, he is the Senate minority leader since 2017, Chuck Schumer turns 70.
How he’s celebrating: Schumer is expected to complete his 22nd annual 62-county tour of the state in Athens, N.Y., this afternoon and unveil legislation that would benefit small businesses and a two-prolonged plan to increase mass testing and PPE supplies, according to a media advisory. The Democratic leader will end the day with “dinner with his wife and grandson at his home in Brooklyn,” a Schumer spokesperson told JI.
Investment banker and former chairman of NYC-based Lazard Frères, Michel David-Weill turns 88… Mayor of Pasadena, Calif., since 2015, Terry Tornek turns 75… U.S. district court judge in Massachusetts since being appointed in 1985 by President Reagan, Judge Mark L. Wolf turns 74… Board member of the Yitzhak Rabin Center and former member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, Andrea Lavin Solow turns 68… Television personality and author, Keith Ablow turns 59… Israeli-born entrepreneur, Raanan Zilberman turns 60… Majority owner of the NFL’s Washington Football Team, Daniel Snyder turns 56… Neurosurgeon specializing in the treatment of brain tumors and aneurysms, he is a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Aaron Cohen-Gadol turns 50… VP at Glen Echo Group, Amy Schatz turns 49…
Berlin-based journalist on the Bloomberg News Automation team, Leonid Bershidsky turns 49… Executive at Hakluyt & Company, Keith Lieberthal turns 48… Partner at Blueprint Interactive for digital strategy, Geoff Mackler turns 45… VP and financial advisor at UBS Financial Services in Baltimore, P. Justin “P.J.” Pearlstone turns 46… Research and analysis consultant in Spokane, Washington, Erin Ross turns 45… Associate at Rosen Karol Salis, Shmuel Winiarz turns 34… New England deputy regional director for J Street, Jasmine Gothelf Winship turns 33… Songwriter and recording artist, better known under her stage name Lanz Pierce, Alana Michelle Josephs turns 31… Pitcher on the Israeli National Baseball Team, Corey A. Baker turns 31… President of Eastern Savings Bank in Hunt Valley, Md., and a partner at Baltimore’s Abramoff Neuberger LLP, Yaakov S. Neuberger… Development and grant writer for Friends of Israel Disabled Veterans (Beit Halochem), Elise Fischer… Toronto-based lyricist, author and playwright, Naomi Matlow…