Good Thursday morning!
The U.N. Atomic Agencysaid yesterday that Iran currently holds at least 12 times the enriched uranium that it was allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal.
Former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, who tried to persuade President Donald Trump not to withdraw from the Iran deal, cautioned President-elect Joe Biden against rejoining the international accord. “It would be a really big mistake to turn the clock back to 2016,” he said on Fox News.
The United Arab Emirateshas been expecting a Biden victory for a while and “made sure to get a blessing” from Biden and senior Democrats for the Abraham Accords, Axios reported yesterday.
Two progressive groups, the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats, are urging President-elect Joe Biden to tap Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to top cabinet posts.
House Democratic Caucus ChairHakeem Jeffries (D-NY) asked during a caucus call last week discussing disappointing House results: “Do we want to win, do we want to govern, or do we want to be internet celebrities?” adding: “The socialism message wasn’t helpful.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to announce a new process for the U.S. government to designate international groups and NGOs as antisemitic without naming names, Politico reported yesterday.
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Biden taps Ron Klain as White House chief of staff
In his first appointment since declaring victory last week, President-elect Joe Biden named longtime aide Ronald “Ron” Alan Klain as incoming White House chief of staff last night. Klain has played a key role in drafting Biden’s plan to address COVID-19.
Background: Born and raised in Indianapolis, Klain, 59, grew up in a Jewish household. His father, Stanley Klain, was a building contractor and his mother, Sarann Warner, is a retired travel agent. Klain, a Harvard Law School graduate, served as chief of staff to former Vice President Al Gore and later as chief of staff to Biden during his first term as vice president. In 2014, he was appointed as President Barack Obama’s Ebola response coordinator.
Jewish identity: Klain shared in a recent interview that his bar mitzvah at Indianapolis’s Congregation Beth-El Zedeck was postponed because his mother became sick just before the event and “I had to learn my Torah portion a second time.” In an interview with The New York Times in 2007, Klain said that when he married his wife, Monica Medina, who is not Jewish, they agreed that their three children — Daniel, Hannah and Michael — would be raised in the Jewish faith, but that the family would celebrate Christmas. Every year, the couple would wait to put up a Christmas tree at their home in Chevy Chase, Md., until after his mother had already visited — and left. “I grew up in Indiana, with a decent-size Jewish community, but we were a distinct minority,” Klain shared with the Times. “Not having a Christmas tree was very much part of our Jewish identity in a place where everyone else did.”
Lockdown lessons: In a Zoom call with members of his childhood congregation earlier this year, Klain said that 2020 was the first year he couldn’t attend his mother’s Passover Seder. On the call, he said he drew inspiration from the story of Passover. “The 10th plague — the slaying of the firstborn — was probably some kind of infectious disease. And so this Exodus is the first example of social distancing. The Jews are instructed on the night of the plague to put blood over their doors, but to stay in their homes,” Klain said. “When people say, ‘Well, we’ve never seen one of these stay-at-home orders,’ there’s a stay-at-home order in the Torah in the face of a plague. And that reminds us that throughout human history we’ve been dealing with these kinds of challenges. Our people have been dealing with these kinds of challenges and we’ve overcome [them].”
The Yom Kippur War comes to HBO Max
It has been 47 years since Syrian and Egyptian forces launched a surprise attack on Israel during the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. But for many in Israel, the memory of the Yom Kippur War is still visceral and traumatic. Now that harrowing experience is being brought to life on screen in “Valley of Tears,” a new Israeli show that premieres today on HBO Max. Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro spoke to the show’s director, Yaron Zilberman, about the challenges the producers faced and the trauma the series has reawakened in Israel.
Lingering trauma:“The Yom Kippur War, is, arguably… the most profound trauma that Israel experienced since its inception,” said Zilberman, who directed the miniseries and co-wrote it with Ron Leshem, Amit Cohen and Daniel Amsel. “There was a moment there — more than a moment there — that the feeling was that Israel could have been eliminated… that trauma lingers until today.” The series is named after the crucial battle waged in the Golan Heights during the war; in Hebrew the show is called “Sha’at Neila,” after the traditional final prayer recited on Yom Kippur.
Flashbacks:While the majority of the cast was not alive during the Yom Kippur War, most are army veterans, and several served in IDF combat roles. The hyper-realistic battle scenes, Zilberman said, were at times overwhelming for some of the actors. “There were many, many times, several scenes, where the actor broke down in tears, and went through an emotional trauma, reliving trauma that they had in the army,” said Zilberman, who said when that happened, the cast and crew would offer “them support and love and a way to open the wounds. Definitely there were scenes that caused this level of emotion.”
Price tag:The 10-episode miniseries, which has been called the most expensive in Israeli history, cost a reported NIS 23 million to produce, in large part because of the expenses involved in recreating accurate military equipment. “We’re describing a war and we wanted to make it realistic and to place people inside a tank and inside the event,” Zilberman said. “It’s an expensive production that way.” It was both tricky and costly to get their hands on the Centurion tanks that the IDF used during the Yom Kippur War, which have long been removed from active service. And Israeli law barred the producers from purchasing such a tank from a foreign country. “It was a huge challenge,” he said. “The tank has to be the same color, the numbering, and all the elements within the interior of the tank” have to match what was used in 1973. “It was a huge undertaking.”
Universal themes: In what is a rare occurrence, the series will be airing in Israel and around the globe simultaneously; the fifth episode was released this week in Israel. Locally, Zilberman is thrilled that the show has been a catalyst for more open conversations about the Yom Kippur War. “Everyone is talking about the experiences of their parents or uncle, or whatever their experience with the war is,” he said, noting that a Facebook group to discuss the show already has more than 20,000 members. And Zilberman is hopeful, and optimistic, that the show will resonate as strongly with viewers around the world when it hits HBO’s streaming platform today. “War happens everywhere, unfortunately, and we all deal with that, and I hope that they will be able to connect to that,” he said. “At the end of the day, the drama is the same. Eventually it is about family and about friendships and about love. The mourning of losing a son, or losing a friend, is universal.”
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict highlights Israel’s strategic role in region
A bloody six-week conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region came to an end Tuesday with a Russian-brokered cease-fire deal. The brief conflict highlighted the significant, if below-the-radar, role Israel plays in Azerbaijan’s military policy, and strained the Armenian-Israeli relationship to such a degree that Armenia recalled its ambassador to Israel. Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod spoke to both the Armenian and the Azeri ambassadors to the U.S. about the recent conflict.
Trading blame: “At no point has Azerbaijan attacked Armenia. We have never crossed anybody’s borders. This is all within Azerbaijani internationally recognized territory,” Azerbaijani Ambassador Elin Suleymanov told JI in late October. “We’re doing self-defense, we’re not attacking anybody.” But Armenian Ambassador Varuzhan Nersesyan told JI in early November that “Nagorno-Karabah has been attacked and is subject to aggression by Azerbaijan, Turkey and jihadist terrorists,” adding that Azerbaijan’s actions amounted to “state-sponsored terrorism.”
Longstanding ties: Israel is one of Azerbaijan’s three most consistent allies, alongside Turkey and Pakistan, and consequently played an outsized role in the conflict. “[The relationship is] based on several things,” Suleymanov told JI. “One, the most important thing, is of course the relationship between Azerbaijan and the Jewish people. Azerbaijan has one of the largest Jewish communities in the Muslim world,” the ambassador said. The Jewish presence in present-day Azerbaijan extends back to the 7th century, and Jews have played significant roles in the country’s military history and government. “There’s this unique experience which precedes the independence of both the State of Israel and the Republic of Azerbaijan.”
Drone war:While Turkey is Azerbaijan’s top supplier of military equipment, Baku also purchases some weapons from Israel, including the Harop “suicide drones” — unmanned aerial vehicles packing a warhead that can be used as a bomb or missile — that Azerbaijan used in the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan has also been using other types of Israeli-manufactured weaponry, anti-tank missiles and other types of unmanned drones. Suleymanov described the defense relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan as “super exaggerated,” but claimed that high-tech precision weaponry allowed Azerbaijan to avoid killing Armenian civilians. “What we do with precision military targets and having a superior technology, including the precision technology, allows us to save lives, because that brings collateral civilian damage and death to [a] minimum,” he argued.
Strained relationship: Armenia withdrew its ambassador from Israel in early October in protest of its arms sales to Azerbaijan. Nersesyan added that the weapons have destroyed civilian targets as well as military ones. He told JI that the drones, including the Harop, “make a difference in the battlefield,” adding: “We have been asking the Israeli side not to sell these deadly weapons to Azerbaijan or to consider stopping them, because Armenian and Jewish people… know what is the impact of the persecution, of genocide and of the determination of certain other sides to exterminate our nations.”
Could Mohammad Dahlan be the next Palestinian leader?
With the signing of the Abraham Accords ushering in a new era of Arab-Israeli relations, the foreign policy world has once again turned to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a profile of Mohammad Dahlan in Newlines magazine, journalist Neri Zilber looks at whether the potential Palestinian leader could represent his people in a new era of regional goodwill.
Enemy of my enemy: “From his perch in the UAE, Dahlan has remade himself into a shadowy envoy for the royal family, popping up around conflict zones from Libya and Yemen to East Africa. Turkey has alleged that he helped foment the 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Serbian opposition politicians and media outlets have accused him of moving money into and weapons out of their country, of which he’s been a citizen since 2013-2014… Palestinian Authority officials in the West Bank view him as a bitter rival, despite hailing from the same secular nationalist Fatah movement. The Islamists of Hamas view him as a potential ally, despite Dahlan’s penchant — as Gaza security chief in the 1990s — for allegedly torturing their people. Israeli intelligence and the CIA still view him as a friendly face.”
Infighting:“[There] were persistent rumors that the United States was grooming Dahlan to be Abbas’ deputy and successor, and a report that an anti-Abbas bloc within Fatah was coalescing around Dahlan. Leaked recordings of Dahlan criticizing Abbas and his sons only strengthened Abbas’ paranoia of a potential palace coup. In the end, Abbas struck first — in 2011. Dahlan was suspended and ultimately booted from the Fatah party, and PA security forces raided his home in late summer. He barely made it out of the West Bank, fleeing to Jordan the next day.”
View from Washington:“Gulf leaders view Dahlan as a useful tool by which they can still claim political legitimacy on the Palestinian issue — or at least blunt criticism from rival quarters like Turkey and Qatar (who back the Muslim Brotherhood-aligned Hamas) or the inflexible Abbas… A person familiar with the Trump administration’s thinking added that Dahlan’s continuing appeal was all of the above, combined with a shade of menace. ‘He was brutal in Gaza, and he’s willing to kill people. In this sense he’s Arafat-esque,’ the person told me.”
Read the full story here.
🥪 Comfort Food:In The Boston Globe, Devra First writes about buying Jewish deli comfort food in a synagogue parking lot amid the pandemic. “During times of mourning, Jews come together over platters of smoked fish, balancing grief in one hand and a heaping plate in the other. The country is now sitting shiva for more than 200,000 people, and counting.” [BostonGlobe]
📺 On the Offense:Politico’s Marc Caputo and James Arkin highlight how Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has become the “bogeyman” in Republican attack ads in Georgia’s Senate runoffs. “Schumer is getting a turn as the cautionary liberal in Republican ad campaigns, after a decade of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi featuring in the GOP’s battleground district playbook.” [Politico]
🤳 Anatomy of a Downfall:Bloomberg Businessweek’s JP Mangalindan explores how the failure of Quibi can be traced to Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman’s “self-sabotage” and their “stubborn management, faulty instincts, difficulty promoting their products on social media, and initial smartphone-only approach.” [Businessweek]
Around the Web
🏫 Talk of the Town: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump withdrew their children from the Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School and moved them to the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy last month.
⏲️ Recalculating: Two former Obama administration officials, Rob Malley and Phil Gordon, write in The New York Times that the Trump administration’s foreign policy will be difficult for Biden to fully reverse.
🦆 Lame Duck: Some observers expect Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attempt to extract more concessions from Trump during the president’s final two months in office.
📝 Blacklist:As Defense Department officials fill high-level Pentagon jobs with Trump loyalists, officials say Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley could be the next to be fired.
😠 Taking Offense: Turkey’s Foreign Ministry rebuked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for stating that he plans to discuss religious freedom issues during an upcoming visit to Istanbul.
😜 Fall of a Foe: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah celebrated Trump’s defeat and mocked his administration and the 2020 election in a televised speech yesterday.
🤴 New Head: Bahraini King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa named Crown Prince Salman Al Khalifa as the country’s new prime minister after longtime leader Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa died yesterday.
🚪 Open Doors: The United Arab Emirates has changed some of its laws and repealed social restrictions to appeal to the new tourist and investor class.
👔 Big Tent: A delegation of Israeli settler leaders, led by head of the Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan, is visiting Dubai to discuss commercial opportunities.
⚽ Benched: A soccer match between Norway and Israel was canceled at the last minute due to coronavirus concerns.
💉 Processing Request: Israel is in advanced discussions with Pfizer about acquiring the pharmaceutical company’s COVID-19 vaccine.
📺 On Screen: Egyptian-Canadian actor Omar Sharif Jr. will join the third season of the Israeli romcom “The Baker and The Beauty.”
🎬 New Reality:The annual Jerusalem Film Festival, which was postponed twice, will be held in a mostly virtual setup next month in compliance with Israel’s COVID-19 guidelines.
⚔️ Break Up: White nationalist Kyle Chapman, a senior leader of the far-right Proud Boys, announced he is splitting off a section of the group and renaming it the “Proud Goys.”
⚽ Across the Sea: Life-sized plexiglass statues of German Jewish athletes were destroyed in what the country’s football association believes was an antisemitic attack.
👏 Long Time Coming: A 6-year-old boy who served in the French Resistance during WWII and was killed by friendly fire was finally honored yesterday.
📰 Media Watch: The owner of the U.K. Jewish News has handed control of the paper to a charitable foundation.
Pic of the Day
Israeli archeologists unearthed what they believe is the oldest fortified settlement in the Golan Heights, dating back 3,000 years to the King David era.
Mayor of Oakland, Calif., since 2015, Elizabeth Beckman “Libby” Schaaf turns 55…
Professor of history at Columbia University and an expert on Japan, Carol Gluck turns 79… Author and senior fellow at USC’s Annenberg School, Morley Winograd turns 78… Accountant in Phoenix, Ariz., Steven M. Scheiner, CPA turns 78… Board member of the New York State Thruway Authority and former state senator, he is a descendant of Rabbi Shmuel Salant, Stephen M. Saland turns 77… Sportscaster for NBC since 2006, after 29 years at ABC, Al Michaels turns 76… Attorney in Brooklyn, Bernard C. Wachsman turns 67… Member of the New York State Assembly since 2006, her district includes Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Linda B. Rosenthal turns 63… Author of young-adult fiction and winner of the National Book Award for Challenger Deep, Neal Shusterman turns 58… Author, journalist and former political advisor to Al Gore and Bill Clinton, Naomi Wolf turns 58… University of Chicago professor, in 2019 he won the Nobel Prize in Economics, Michael Kremer turns 56…Rabbi of the Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest, Róbert Frölich turns 55…
President of The Cranemere Group, he was previously director of President Obama’s National Economic Council (2014-2017), Jeffrey Zients turns 54… British journalist and political correspondent for BBC News, Joanne “Jo” Coburn turns 53… SVP and general manager of MLB’s Minnesota Twins, Thad Levine turns 49… Former member of the Knesset (2006-2019) for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Robert Ilatov turns 49… Israeli fashion model and actress, Nina Brosh turns 45… Member of the Knesset for the United Torah Judaism alliance, Eliyahu Hasid turns 44… Film actress and director, Jordana Ariel Spiro turns 43… Actress best known for her roles on “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” Kelly Kruger turns 39… Political scientist, he has written about the Jewish philanthropic sector and public affairs agencies, Matthew D. Berkman, Ph.D. turns 36… Partnership practice lead at Recruited, Dave Weinberg… Industry engagement manager for the Mayor of Detroit’s Office of Workforce Development, Spencer F. Lucker turns 33… New Jersey-based primary care physician and celebrity known as Doctor Mike, Mikhail Varshavski, DO turns 31… Pro-Israel activist, Adela Cojab turns 24…