Good Monday morning!
Joe Biden was declared the president-elect by all major news organizations on Saturday, after clinching the majority of votes in Pennsylvania — while Georgia, North Carolina and Alaska remain uncalled.
President Donald Trump refused to concede the election, and continues to push claims of electoral fraud, vowing to pursue legal action. Conflicting reports have emerged over senior advisor Jared Kushner urging Trump either to concede — or to pursue “legal remedies.”
Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Special Envoy for Iran Elliott Abrams in Jerusalem to discuss the Trump administration’s plan to issue new sanctions on Iran in the final weeks of Trump’s term.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhanicalled on Biden to “compensate for past mistakes” and return to the 2015 nuclear deal. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed “sincere congratulations and best wishes” to Biden.
As results in House races continue to roll in, former Rep. Darrell Issa beat out Ammar Campa-Najjar in California’s 50th district, Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew fended off a challenge from Amy Kennedy in New Jersey and Rep. Susie Lee was reelected in Nevada’s 3rd district. In Pennsylvania, Rep. Susan Wild beat challenger Lisa Scheller and Josh Shapiro was reelected as the state’s DA. In the Los Angeles DA’s race, George Gascón, who faced allegations of sexual harassment in the days before the election, ousted incumbent Jackie Lacey.
Memorial and ceremonies around the world today will mark the 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.
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Sharing personal memories of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Tributes to Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks poured in over the weekend after his death of cancer on Saturday at age 72. Leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Britain’s Prince Charles offered their condolences on the death of the former U.K. chief rabbi and intellectual giant. Jewish Insider asked a range of Jewish community figures to share some of their personal experiences and memories of Rabbi Sacks over the years. Below are some abbreviated excerpts of their comments.
Jeff Swartz, former CEO of the The Timberland Company and current chairman of Maoz:
“On a jam-packed visit of impact and Torah to Boston once, I asked Rabbi Sacks if he would somehow find an hour to speak to a group of Israeli changemakers who were having an experience of growth at Harvard Business School. There were 45 diverse leaders — Arabs and haredim, religious and secular. Unfailingly the man of unrelenting mission, Rabbi Sacks graciously found an hour he did not have, and visited with the effect that was uniquely his — the glow of Torah, the light of erudition, the irresistible passion of true shlichut — and he lit up that group. His authentic Torah and his world-class intellectual span allowed him to teach, to impart, to inspire.”
Carly Maisel, global CEO of the Kirsh Foundation and board member for the Community Security Service and the Community Security Initiative:
“I first met Rabbi Sacks at 20 years old, as a young, but opinionated student activist from the U.K. He and Lady Elaine were hosting a reception to thank us for our efforts on behalf of the Jewish student body. Growing up in a non-Orthodox world, I wasn’t accustomed to the protocols around shaking hands. As Rabbi Sacks approached I put my hand out as had the rest of the receiving line. I realized as he came towards me that everyone else in the line was a man. I panicked, understanding my mistake, and put my hand behind my back. He — in an effort not to embarrass me — had put his hand out, and what followed was a very awkward dance until he dramatically put his hands behind his back and bowed and winked. This became our greeting ritual for the next years as I went on to become one of those who had the honor to provide him with security as a Community Security Trust volunteer and eventually one of his close protection officers.”
Sivan Rahav Meir, an Israeli journalist, author and commentator:
“What I loved about Rabbi Sacks… was the creativity — he was a philosopher, a professor, a well-known lord, rabbi, chief rabbi — and all he wanted was to speak to me and to Ishay Ribo, four months ago. His office reached out to us, Ishay, a young Israeli singer, and me, I’m not a rebbetzin, I’m not a professor, I’m just an Israeli journalist trying to teach the parsha. And they tried to create that combination, that project, of the three of us together. And I loved that creativity, in a humble way, he said ‘yeah, I want to speak to young Jews from Israel, I want to get to know them.’ And it wasn’t like we were interviewing him, he was also listening to us. And I was surprised and also flattered — and I know Ishay also felt that way.”
Chanan Weissman, former White House Jewish liaison:
“It is rare in life that an iconic figure proactively reaches out to you. That’s precisely the situation I found myself in during the waning days of my tenure at the White House in 2016. I had previously written a short tribute in the Jewish Book Council’s literary journal about the sustaining impact of Rabbi Sacks’s book, A Letter in the Scroll, on my religious identity. Having received an advanced copy of the journal, Rabbi Sacks’s office contacted me and graciously arranged for us to connect the following month on the margins of the Jewish Federations’ General Assembly. Within minutes of meeting, Rabbi Sacks kindly asked about my future plans amid the uncertainty of a presidential transition. I replied by quoting the first words of that week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha, in which God instructs Abraham to ‘leave your land, your birthplace and your father’s house and go to the land that I will show you.’ At this crossroads, I admitted, I was unsure and uneasy about my next step. Rabbi Sacks paused. He pushed his furrowed brow inwards and stared at the ground. After a momentary silence, he lifted his head and answered, ‘Chanan — Avraham also did not know where that land would be or what would be there for him. But he took those first steps and ventured forward.’”
Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York:
“This past September, a few days before Rosh Hashanah (and shortly before the announcement of his illness), I had the privilege of interviewing Rabbi Sacks at a UJA event about his new book Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times. I was hoping for the opportunity to follow up with him after the U.S. elections to get his take on the road to mending the divides in this country. He was by nature an optimist, and I know he would have been comforting. The world has lost one of the truly great Jewish leaders of our time. Yehi zichro baruch — and may his extraordinary scholarship inspire us for generations to come.”
What does the U.S.-Israel relationship look like under a Biden administration?
Five days after the elections came to an end, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was named the country’s president-elect. “With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation,” Biden said from Wilmington, Del., citing a quote from the book of Ecclesiastes: “To everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.” Tuesday’s election and its outcome — while it ushers in a new era of American politics and global leadership — is not expected to result in a dramatic shift in the U.S.-Israel relationship, Jewish Democratic leaders and Middle East experts stressed in interviews with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh.
A record to build on: “Biden has a very long history of being very supportive of Israel, of having the fate of Israel in his heart. It’s not just a political relationship,” noted former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer. “A Biden win for the U.S.-Israel relationship means that he will continue to look for ways to strengthen and deepen it.” Former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) said “there’s no doubt” in his mind that Biden will have a good working relationship with the Israeli government. “The election of Joe Biden will clearly strengthen and enhance the relationship between the U.S. and Israel because Joe Biden has led in support for Israel for his entire career,” he said.
Joe is Joe: “Joe Biden is not Barack Obama,” Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told JI. “His view of Israel is in many respects generational, and much closer to [that of] Bill Clinton. Biden, like Clinton, is in love with the idea of Israel. Therefore, he tends to make accommodation as Clinton did to the realities that Israel finds itself in, and his inclination is not to judge but to give Israel the benefit of the doubt.” Dr. Dore Gold, former director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said he doesn’t believe a Biden administration will “roll back the clock to the Obama-Kerry period,” referencing the policies of the former president and John Kerry, who served as secretary of state from 2013-2017. “Biden is his own man.”
When Netanyahu called it: Shortly after Biden’s speech on Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his congratulations to the president-elect. The tweet, which was posted hours after a number of world leaders issued congratulatory statements, was criticized by Israeli Opposition Leader Yair Lapid and commentators and mocked by political observers. “Bibi calls the race,” tweeted Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney in New York’s southern district. Netanyahu’s delayed response was coordinated with President Reuven Rivlin and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who chose to wait for Biden to deliver his remarks as Trump refused to concede defeat. “The short delay is inconsequential,” Ari Harow, former chief of staff to Netanyahu, told JI, dismissing the criticism. “Biden’s long-standing relationship with Israel is negated in any media-driven fallout over the timing of the congratulations.”
Buzz on Balfour: The future of the U.S.-Israel relationship will ultimately depend on how Netanyahu decides to approach relations with Washington, posited Tal Shalev, the chief political correspondent for Walla! News. “Netanyahu can decide that he wants to try and work with the Biden administration, that Biden is not Obama, and maintain a good relationship with the White House, and for that one would assume that it would be better for him to have Gantz and [Foreign Minister Gabi] Ashkenazi in his coalition — just like he had Tzipi Livini and Ehud Barak during the Obama administration — to make it easier to communicate with a Democratic administration.” Alternatively, Shalev suggested that Netanyahu “might be tempted to go back to the old Obama-Netanyahu dynamics, which was a dynamic that was extremely valuable politically, that helped him consolidate his base,” she said. “Netanyahu might decide that he wants to call early elections to present himself as the only prime minister who can protect Israel’s interest, and turn the relationship more hostile than it actually [will be], for his own electoral reasons.”
View from Ramallah: Palestinians welcomed the news of Trump’s defeat, but remain cautious about a Biden presidency. In an interview with The Arab American News last month, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris pledged that a Biden administration will “oppose annexation and settlement expansion,” will “restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people” and reopen the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem and the PLO mission in Washington. The comments were “well received” in Ramallah, Al-Monitor’s Daoud Kuttab reported.
Jewish and pro-Israel groups expect ‘open door’ in a Biden adminisration
Biden’s long-standing relationship with the American Jewish community and mainstream pro-Israel groups will play a factor in his administration’s relations with Israel and in maintaining bipartisan domestic support for Israel’s security, Jewish American leaders predicted in conversations with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh.
Coming together: Abe Foxman, who headed the Anti-Defamation League from 1987-2015, told JI he believes that a Biden administration will have an “open door” policy for Jewish organizations across the political spectrum. “The door will be very open to a wide variety of viewpoints from the Jewish community — ranging from pretty far left to pretty far right,” Alan Solow, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, predicted. “I’m not saying every single organization will get an invitation, so to speak, but it will be a wider variety [than previous administrations].” Biden’s “DNA is all about inclusivity,” said Steve Israel, who served in Congress during the debate over the Iran deal in 2015. “He will listen to all voices and then make a judgement. If there’s one person in Washington who never shuts and locks the door, it’s Joe Biden.”
Warm welcome: Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union’s executive director for public policy, noted that while a majority of Orthodox Jews supported Trump’s reelection, “even before this campaign, Joe Biden was the kind of person that was very open to reaching out and building coalitions broadly.” Diament said he is “hopeful” the OU “will have a productive working relationship” with the Biden administration, which he expects will do “more outreach” to communities that backed Trump. “[Biden] literally campaigned on wanting to bring the country together more,” Diament explained. Rabbi Avi Shafran, a columnist and social critic who serves as the director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, predicted that “the Biden administration, while it will not dismiss the concerns of the ‘progressive’ voices in its party, will be on the same page as mainstream pro-Israel groups when it comes to positions and actions vis-a-vis the Middle East.”
Close allies: One organization that hopes to work with the incoming administration is J Street, which raised $2 million for Biden’s campaign. “J Street actively supported Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ campaign because their views on core issues align with ours,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami told JI. “We will have a strong working relationship with the new administration, and we look forward to an open exchange of ideas.” Susie Gelman, chair of the Israel Policy Forum, told JI that she expects a Biden administration “would seek to engage with a wide variety of groups offering different perspectives, including some that might disagree with him — something that has not happened in the Trump years.”
Giving up a seat: One group that is unwilling to give Biden a grace period is the Zionist Organization of America. “I am very, very worried,” ZOA President Mort Klein told JI. “I have known Joe Biden for 25 years. Every time he promised me he would do something on Israel, he never did it.” Klein said he was concerned about Biden’s positions on the Middle East and his potential cabinet appointments, but said he would judge the next president “based on statements and policies, and if he does good things for America and Israel, I’m happy to say so.” According to Mark Mellman, president and CEO of Democratic Majority for Israel, “To have a seat at the table, you have to be respectful of the office, the man. I didn’t respect Donald Trump, and so I didn’t expect that. And if some folks on the extreme [right] are disrespectful to the vice president or to the office, I don’t expect them to be at the table.”
Israeli-American media mogul and Biden fundraiser Haim Saban told JI: “I could not be more ecstatic that the American people voted, in historic numbers, for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to be our next president and vice president. I know that both President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have the necessary experience, vision and heart to unify our country and over the next four years they will work tirelessly to ensure that the strong, bipartisan alliance between the U.S. and Israel remains unshakeable.”
Moderate and progressive House Democrats spar over losses
Moderate and progressive House Democrats continued to trade blame over the party’s Election Day losses in critical swing districts across the country, after numerous vulnerable members of the party were ousted and the Democrats failed to flip most of their swing-state targets.
Contentious call: Tensions within the House Democratic caucus spilled into the public through extensive leaks from a caucus call on Thursday, in which Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) raised concerns that calls for Medicare for All and the defunding of the police had hurt the party in the election. Progressives including Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) fired back, arguing that progressive policies appeal to the party’s base.
Speaking out: After the call, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) blamed the party’s House losses on under-spending on digital campaigning and door-knocking in the final stretch of the campaign. “I’ve looked through a lot of these campaigns that lost, and the fact of the matter is if you’re not spending $200,000 on Facebook with fundraising, persuasion, volunteer recruitment, get-out-the-vote the week before the election, you are not firing on all cylinders,” Ocasio-Cortez told The New York Times.
Pushback: In his own interview with the Times, Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA), whom Ocasio-Cortez singled out for criticism, said, “She doesn’t have any idea how we ran our campaign, or what we spent,” and argued that Ocasio-Cortez was not a consistent “team player” during the presidential race. He also made the case that “completely unrealistic… false promises” like defunding the police and banning fracking frustrated swing voters and led to the House Democrats’ electoral struggles. “The rhetoric and the policies and all that stuff — it has gone way too far. It needs to be dialed back. It needs to be rooted in common sense, in reality, and yes, politics. Because we need districts like mine to stay in the majority and get something done for the people that we care about the most,” he said.
Debating departure: Ocasio-Cortez also told the Times that she is not sure if she will remain in politics, due to perceived hostility from her own party. “I don’t even know if I want to be in politics. You know, for real, in the first six months of my term, I didn’t even know if I was going to run for reelection this year,” she said. The New York congresswoman added that President-elect Joe Biden’s administration needs to bring in progressives, rather than Republicans and other conservatives who campaigned for him, because “transition appointments, they send a signal. They tell a story of who the administration credits with this victory.”
Big tent: Clyburn reiterated in an NBC interview Sunday that candidates must be allowed to “represent their districts,” and that candidates like Jaime Harrison and Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) were hampered by progressive rhetoric. He added that labels, including “progressive” and “conservative,” can be counterproductive. “I just want us to be Democrats in a big tent.”
Fallout: The tension within the caucus could foreshadow a tough leadership battle for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who officially announced her bid for reelection as speaker last week. Ocasio-Cortez, who was reluctant to back Pelosi in 2019, has not committed to voting for her in January.
👩💼 Media Powerhouse:New York Times media columnist Ben Smith profiles his colleague and friend Maggie Haberman, who has spent the past four years serving as “the source of a remarkably large share of what we know about Donald Trump and his White House.” [NYTimes]
💎 Surprising Discovery:In The Daily Beast, Candida Moss spotlights a 2,000-year-old gem, carved with the image of Apollo, that was recently discovered in Jerusalem, reinforcing the idea “that first century Jerusalem was more diverse and pluralistic than we might have assumed.” [DailyBeast]
💸 New Era:Wall Street Journal columnist Andy Kessler explores how recent normalization deals between Israel and Gulf countries emulate “the end of the Iron Curtain” when it comes to trade. “The deals being done aren’t only UAE money headed to Israel chasing hot startups. They are about opening the Middle East as a market for Israeli entrepreneurs.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
⚔️ In the Lobby: Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Wendy Sherman, who served as lead negotiator for the Obama administration on the JCPOA, are reportedly competing with former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg for the position of U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
⚾ On Deck: The Washington Nationals, owned by the Lerner family, have invited Biden to throw the ceremonial opening pitch next season.
👋 Ousted: Bonnie Glick, the No. 2 official at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), was fired on Friday in an effort to extend John Barsa’s term as acting administrator of the agency.
🛣️ Road Ahead: Protesters demonstrating against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew inspiration from Biden’s win, using their weekly Saturday rally to rejoice and chant “Trump down, Bibi to go.”
🚫 Taking Action: Facebook announced that it has removed a number of fake accounts across its platforms that it says were part of an Iran-based effort to interfere in Israeli politics.
✈️ Safe Flight: The first commercial passenger flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, operated by flydubai, landed yesterday in Dubai.
🛬 Grounded: British Airways and easyJet have temporarily halted their flights between Tel Aviv and London as the U.K. enters a second lockdown.
🧢 Clean Slate:New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and a number of top aides left the franchise shortly after it was acquired by hedge fund manager Steve Cohen.
💼 Workplace Woe: Prominent U.K. divorce attorney Fiona Shackleton alleges that she was bullied for being a woman and Jewish while working at the prominent firm Farrer & Co.
🙇 Expressing Regrets: The Dutch Protestant Church admitted fault yesterday in not doing more to assist and protect Jews before, during and after the Holocaust.
🕯️ Paying Tribute: Renowned Torah scholar Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, son of the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, died at age 91.
🕯️ Remembering:Seymour Topping, a former correspondent and editor of The New York Times born Seymour Topolsky, died at age 98. Borscht Belt comedian Norm Crosby died at age 93. Israeli poet Natan Zach died at age 89. Psychiatrist Bruce Sklarew died at age 88.
Gif of the Day
Israelis light 2,665 candles last night in Jerusalem’s Paris Square, to mark the number of Israelis who have died of COVID-19, as part of a protest outside the prime minister’s residence.
Professional baseball manager in the minor leagues and college, he managed Team Israel at the WBC qualifier in 2016 and the World Baseball Classic in South Korea and Japan in 2017, Jerry Weinstein turns 77…
British Conservative politician and businessman, Baron David Wolfson turns 85… Former chairman of UK bank Lloyds TSB, Sir Maurice Victor Blank turns 78… Israeli war hero and long-time member of the Knesset, now chairman of the Zomet Institute, Zevulun Orlev turns 75… Chairman and CEO of Los Angeles-based PR and public affairs firm Cerrell Associates, Hal Dash turns 72… Chief innovation officer at World Media Networks, Daniel Ajzen turns 70… Mitchell Bedell turns 70… Former deputy national security advisor for President Trump, Charles Martin Kupperman turns 70… U.S. senator and currently the only Democrat holding statewide office in Ohio, Sherrod Brown turns 68… Senior producer at NBC Nightly News, Joel Seidman turns 66… Political consultant and fundraiser, she founded “No Labels” in 2010, Nancy Jacobson turns 58… Executive director of Los Angeles-based Remember Us: The Holocaust Bnai Mitzvah Project, Samara Hutman turns 58…
Professor of journalism and media studies at Fordham University, Amy Beth Aronson Ph.D. turns 58… Partner in the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis, Douglas C. Gessner turns 55… Partner at Covington & Burling specializing in export controls and sanctions, Peter Lichtenbaum turns 55… Founder of Clarity Capital, a NYC and Tel Aviv-based firm, he is an American-born Israeli fighter pilot and author of a 2018 book on the future of Judaism, Tal Keinan turns 51… Founding executive director of OneTable, Aliza Kline turns 49… Associate justice of the Michigan Supreme Court since 2015, Richard H. Bernstein turns 46… Israeli singer and actress, Maya Bouskilla turns 43… Co-founder and executive director of Future Now, he was elected as the youngest member of the New York State Senate in 2008, serving until 2017, Daniel Squadron turns 41… Cleveland-born, now living in Phoenix, singer, songwriter and rapper, Ari Benjamin Lesser turns 34… J.D. candidate in the class of 2022 at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, Matthew Adam McCoy turns 24…