Good Tuesday morning!
U.S. Special Representative for Iran Elliot Abramstold Israeli reporters yesterday that it “remains to be seen” if Biden could reenter the 2015 Iran deal. Abrams flew from Israel to Riyadh via Amman today to meet with Saudi leaders.
President Donald Trumpfired Defense Secretary Mark Esper yesterday, and aides indicated he may oust FBI director Christopher Wray and CIA director Gina Haspel next.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat died of COVID-19 this morning at age 65, after being hospitalized at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.
In an address to the World Jewish Congress last night, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called to fight against “antisemitism and hatred of many kinds.”
Spread the word! Invite your friends to sign up and earn JI swag through our Ambassador program
Gaza on my mind
In a 2018 sermon, Warnock blasted Israel. He now says ‘I Stand with Israel’
Rev. Raphael Warnock, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Georgia’s special election, clarified his views on Israel after video of a 2018 sermon surfaced in which the pastor accused Israel of shooting non-violent Palestinian protesters. In an editorial shared with Jewish Insider yesterday, titled “I Stand with Israel,” Warnock writes: “Without reservation, you can count on me to stand with the Jewish community and Israel in the U.S. Senate.” Warnock details his positions on a number of issues, including his support for the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding, his rejection of conditioning financial aid to Israel and his hope that a two-state solution can be achieved.
Background: Warnock is the senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., served as a co-pastor. He received a plurality of votes in last week’s special Senate election but fell short of the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff. Warnock will face off against Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) on January 5, to finish out the term of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who resigned in late 2019 due to health concerns. Loeffler was appointed to the seat in January 2020.
What he said then: In a sermon delivered shortly after the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem in May 2018, Warnock said, “It’s been a tough week. The administration opened up the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Standing there [were] the president’s family and a few mealy-mouthed evangelical preachers who are responsible for the mess that we found ourselves in, both there and here — misquoting and misinterpreting the Scripture, talking about peace. Meanwhile, young Palestinian sisters and brothers, who are struggling for their very lives, struggling for water and struggling for their human dignity, stood up in a non-violent protest, saying, ‘If we’re going to die, we’re going to die struggling.’”
Drawing equivalence: Warnock went on to compare the struggle for Palestinian rights with the Black Lives Matter movement. “Yes, there may have been some folk who were violent, but we oughta know how that works out,” Warnock said. “We know what it’s like to stand up and have a peaceful demonstration and have the media focus on a few violent uprisings. But you have to look at those Palestinian sisters and brothers, who are struggling for their human dignity and they have a right to self-determination, they have a right to breathe free… We saw the government of Israel shoot down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey. And I don’t care who does it, it is wrong. It is wrong to shoot down God’s children like they don’t matter at all. And it’s no more antisemitic for me to say that than it is anti-white for me to say that Black lives matter. Palestinian lives matter.”
Warnock’s comment on the sermon: When asked for a comment on the video, a Warnock campaign spokesperson told Jewish Insider, “It is clear that our opponent is going through thousands of hours of footage trying to find a way to misrepresent who Reverend Warnock is and scare Georgians. But that does not change the fact that Reverend Warnock is a staunch ally and supporter of Israel and the Jewish community in our state. Reverend Warnock agrees with Dr. King that ‘Israel’s right to exist as a state in security is incontestable,’ and believes a two-state solution is the path to enduring peace.”
What he’s saying now: In the editorial provided to JI on Monday, Warnock wrote, “I understand and recognize Israel’s unique historical importance as the greatest proponent of democracy in the Middle East and America’s most important partner in the region. I understand the many threats that face Israel and as a U.S. senator I will work to ensure Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon. It is true that I am deeply concerned about continued settlement expansion — I believe it is a threat to the prospect of a two-state solution, which I believe is the only path to enduring peace. I will continue to advocate for self-determination for the Palestinian people because I want to see a Palestinian state living side by side with a safe and secure Israel.”
On BDS: Addressing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, Warnock wrote: “In the spirit of John Lewis and so many civil rights heroes I revere, I recognize the First Amendment right to protest is an American value we must protect. But I strongly oppose the BDS movement and its antisemitic underpinnings, including its supporters’ refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.”
Who will replace Kamala Harris in the Senate?
With the presidential race called in former Vice President Joe Biden’s favor, and results in the final remaining House races trickling in, the political world’s eyes are turning to a new question: Who will California Gov. Gavin Newsom pick to fill Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s Senate seat for the remaining two years of her term? Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod spoke to a range of West Coast political observers to gain their insight on Newsom’s upcoming decision.
On top: Most analysts agree that California Secretary of State Alex Padilla is high on Newsom’s list of candidates for the appointment. Padilla, a former state senator who has served as secretary of state since 2015, is a “very well-respected public official” and a “longtime Newsom supporter” who is “on the tops of pretty much everybody’s list,” Zev Yaroslavsky, a longtime former member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Los Angeles City Council who now leads UCLA’s Los Angeles Initiative, told Jewish Insider.
Close ties:Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, vice chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, said that Padilla seems to be the most popular choice within the Jewish community. “He’s a really wonderful guy. A really inspiring biography, really kind, really thoughtful, very menschy, very smart,” Gabriel said. “He’d just be a phenomenal U.S. senator.” According to Yaroslavsky, Padilla has visited Israel numerous times, forged close relationships with the Jewish community and established himself as a supporter of the Jewish state going back to his time on the Los Angeles City Council — to which he was elected at age 26.
Wealth of options: Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, State Senate President pro tempore Toni Atkins, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Karen Bass (D-CA), Treasurer Fiona Ma, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis are among the other names floated to JI. “Everyone in the government is a Democrat statewide, and [Newsom is] friends with all of them and trusts all of them,” said Sam Lauter, a San Francisco-based political consultant, longtime friend of Newsom and former chair of AIPAC’s Northern California Board of Directors. “There’s really a lot for him to choose from.”
Eye on 2022:One of Newsom’s primary considerations in picking a replacement for Harris will be ensuring that his choice can win the statewide vote in 2022, when the seat comes up for reelection. “He’ll look for somebody who he thinks can wage a campaign, can raise the funds for a campaign,” Yaroslavsky said. “The one thing he wants is to appoint somebody who will get elected in two years.”
Talk of Our Nation
JI readers share their thoughts on the future of U.S. civil discourse
Launching his COVID-19 task force yesterday, President-elect Joe Biden pleaded with the American people to wear masks in a show of national unity. “It doesn’t matter who you voted for, where you stood before Election Day. It doesn’t matter your party, your point of view, we can save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months. Not Democrat or Republican lives, American lives,” Biden said in a speech in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden’s remarks followed a theme outlined in his victory speech of bringing the country together following a bitter and divisive election. We asked JI readers to share their thoughts about the future of U.S. politics and American civil discourse in the wake of the election:
Yossi Klein Halevi, senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute: “What worries me is the contempt that has been coming out the last few days. Certainly there are those voices that are calling for reconciliation and generosity, but you also have many voices calling for a kind of political revenge. The person who summed up that mean-spirited approach was [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)] who called for the creation of an enemies list of all those in positions of authority who supported [Donald] Trump. That rhetoric of, ‘We won’t forget, we won’t forgive’ is how society self destructs. I worry about America that treats politics like theology. Politics is not or shouldn’t be religion. Politics is an approximation of truth. It’s not true itself. Politics is dealing with a flawed world on its own terms, of trying to make it a little better. But to confuse politics for absolute truth is how societies unravel.”
Former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY): “Joe Biden took the first step by extending an olive branch and acknowledging that we have to lower the temperature and listen to one another again. I’ve called him the ‘conciliator in chief.’ He has demonstrated an ability to bring people together and to bridge gaps. That makes me feel hopeful that we’re going to return to some form of respectful discourse. It won’t be easy because there is bias. There are some people who will reject compromise. But Biden has been saying that we’ve got to stop yelling at each other and begin talking with one another, and he’s got the skill set to address it meaningfully.”
Former U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer: “Halevai (if only), as they say, but I am fearful that because we will have a split presidency and Congress that we’re going to run into the same partisanship, particularly on appointments and on some of the core issues that Biden does believe in, like health care, immigration reform and race relations. I think there will be constant tension between the administration and Senate that’s still run by Mitch McConnell on those issues. I hope I’m wrong, but I am not persuaded that I’ll be wrong.”
Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women: “NCJW always seeks to advocate for the issues we believe in with respect and civility, and we believe the Biden/Harris administration will only help restore productive discourse in our nation.”
Badgering for Votes
How Ben Wikler helped flip Wisconsin for Biden
When Joe Biden took a narrow lead over President Donald Trump in the battleground state of Wisconsin at around 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday, November 4, Ben Wikler was seated at his kitchen table, wide awake, apprehensively watching the results trickle in. “I think I was eating some leftover Thai food, and my shoulders just went down about three inches,” he recalled in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel yesterday. “It was just like a wave of tension escaping my body.”
Ignoring the polls: Wikler, the 39-year-old chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, had reason to feel a sense of accomplishment as the mail-in tally in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Kenosha helped vault Biden — now the president-elect — to a decisive victory in the Badger State. “It was a wave of relief, a real sense that everything had mattered, and that it had all worked,” Wikler said. Before the election, polling suggested that Biden was safely ahead in Wisconsin, though local Democratic organizers chose to ignore the surveys this year and assume they were operating at a disadvantage given Trump’s narrow victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to Wikler.
Taking no vote for granted: “The risk is that if a survey tells you you’re ahead, you think you can slack off a little bit, and this time, no Democrat fell into that trap,” said Wikler, who also canvassed for Clinton four years ago in Wisconsin. “Everyone added shifts and added more shifts, conscious that polls got it wrong in 2016. If anyone had been lulled into complacency by the polls, then we would have lost our state, and it’s because people refused to be lulled into a false sense of security that voters and organizers and activists pulled out all the stops.”
Blue wall: Biden flipped the Badger State by just 20,500 votes so far, with some votes still yet to be counted. It was one of the first battlegrounds to turn in his favor on election night — a pivotal win foreshadowing the former vice president’s successful effort to rebuild the “blue wall” of Rust Belt states that Democrats had counted on before Trump claimed them last cycle. “Wisconsin was long predicted to be the hardest of the ‘blue wall’ states to win back, and it’s probably going to turn out to be the closest,” Wikler said. “Yet we won here first.”
📰 Media Watch:In New York magazine, Reeves Wiedeman explores the “raw debate” inside The New York Times. “The paper’s claim to holding the independent center was already slipping, as the staff came to grips with an increasingly polarized audience.” [NewYork]
📊 Poll Playback:The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner interviews pollster Nate Cohn about what and how the polls got wrong this election cycle. “I think one of the most interesting parts of the polling error this year is that it was greater down-ballot than it was as at the top of the ticket, and in 2016 it was the opposite.” [NewYorker]
👨💼 Inside Man:In Business Insider, Robin Bravender profiles “veteran Washington insider” Ron Klain, who is expected to be named Biden’s chief of staff, and is viewed as someone with a “unique ability to explain complicated subjects, stay calm in a crisis, and game out political problems before they arise.” [BI]
Around the Web
🇸🇩 On the Ground:Israel plans to send its first delegation to Sudan next week to firm up details of the countries’ normalization deal.
📝 Reaching Out: Agudath Israel of America, an advocacy group for Haredi Jews whose members were largely considered supportive of President Trump, sent a congratulatory letter yesterday to President-elect Joe Biden.
💻 Unfollow: The American Jewish Congress sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey slamming the social media platform for its unclear policy on Holocaust denial.
👨💼 Moving On: Former TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer, who was once considered a candidate for the top job at Disney, has joined Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries as an advisor.
📈 Going Green: The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange is launching a fossil fuel-free climate index next month.
💉 Friendly Favor: Israeli Finance Minister Israel Katz asked Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to help Israel obtain Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which trials indicate is 90% effective.
✈️ Air Traffic:Israel launched a coronavirus testing station yesterday for outgoing travelers at Ben-Gurion Airport. Meanwhile, Israel is testing passengers arriving from Denmark for the mutated mink strain of COVID-19.
💰 Collecting Donations:The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees announced that it has run out of money to pay its staff, after two years of funding cuts by the U.S. and other donors.
🎧 Podcast Playback: On The Washington Institute’s podcast “Decision Points,” moderated by David Makovsky, UAE Ambassador to Washington Yousef Al Otaiba and Bahraini Ambassador Abdullah bin Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa discussed their hope that the peace deals with Israel will end the dehumanization that exists between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East.
🇱🇧 Talk of the Region:Bahaa Hariri, the billionaire son of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, is urging his brother Saad not to cut a deal with Hezbollah to get his former job back.
🇹🇷 Turkey’s Jared: Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has resigned from his position.
😷 Well Wishes: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has tested positive for COVID-19.
🥫 On the Shelf: Wexler’s Jewish deli in Los Angeles is planning to launch a range of products available in grocery stores.
🕯️ Tribute: The New York Times published its obituary of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, detailing his journey from adventurous teenager looking for spiritual connection to “an important and widely heard voice on the role of religion in the modern world.”
🕯️ Remembering: Linda Rae Sher, who founded the first U.S. Jewish women’s political action committee, has died at 73.
Pic of the Day
ESPN’s longest-tenured “SportsCenter” anchor, Linda Cohn turns 61…
Academy Award-winning lyricist and songwriter, Marilyn Bergman turns 91… Manager of the Decatur, Georgia-based Connect Hearing, Murray Kurtzberg turns 78… Former NBA player (1964-1970) who became a lawyer and then a New York State judge, Barry D. Kramer turns 78… One of the four deans of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, N.J., Rabbi Yerucham Olshin turns 77… Professor emeritus of history at University of Nebraska at Omaha, Oliver B. Pollak, Ph.D. turns 77… Former CNN news anchor, Aaron Brown turns 72… Executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles, Raphael J. Sonenshein, Ph.D. turns 71… Executive producer, writer, journalist at Holaro and The Muck-Rake, Howard L. Rosenberg turns 69…
Bar-Ilan University professor and social historian, Adam Ferziger turns 56… Senior rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, Ken Chasen turns 55… Former MLB right-fielder for 14 seasons, he founded a software company developing technology for sports and entertainment organizations, Shawn Green turns 48… Managing editor for news at Vox, Benjamin Pauker turns 45… Co-founder in 2004 of Yelp, where he remains the CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman turns 43… Chief investigative reporter at ABC News, Josh Margolin turns 41… Global communications official for Bloomberg Philanthropies on public health, Jean B. Weinberg turns 40… Actor, comedian, and YouTube personality, Josh Peck turns 34… Actress and producer, Zoey Deutch turns 26…