Good Thursday morning!
Today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited both the Golan Heights and a winery in the West Bank settlement of Psagot, marking the first time a cabinet member has has paid an official visit to an Israeli settlement.
Pompeo announced that the U.S. will allow products produced in Israeli settlements to be labeled “Made in Israel” — following a letter sent to Trump yesterday by four Republican senators urging such a move.
Earlier this morning, Pompeo met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. The secretary of state announced that the U.S. will recognize the BDS movement as antisemitic and “take steps” to identify such groups and withdraw any government support.
A letter sent by 41 congressional Democrats to Pompeo this week — spearheaded by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) — raises concerns about the Israeli government’s demolition of a Palestinian Bedouin village earlier this month. California Reps. Alan Lowenthal and Ro Khanna explained to JI’s Marc Rod why they signed on. More here.
Yesterday, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani toldAxios that President-elect Joe Biden must consult with Gulf states before renegotiating any deal with Iran. Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi echoed the same sentiment during a classified Knesset hearing.
Maccabi Tel Aviv star Deni Avdijabecame the highest-drafted Israeli player in NBA history, joining the Washington Wizards with the ninth pick. The 19-year old small forward enters the league as one of the most anticipated rookie talents. Fellow Israeli Yam Madar was drafted to the Boston Celtics with the 47th pick.
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Who will Biden pick to be ambassador to Israel?
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President-elect Joe Biden spoke this week, the two leaders highlighted their shared desire to turn a new page. After Netanyahu’s close alliance with the Trump White House and his rocky relations with the Obama administration, there is indication of the need for a reset between Netanyahu and the incoming Democratic administration. And one of the people who will serve as a middle man to navigate and manage that burgeoning relationship is the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh spoke with close to a dozen Biden insiders and Mideast experts about who the president-elect will pick as his envoy.
The list: Individuals under consideration for the key posting, according to sources, include Daniel Shapiro, who served as ambassador to Israel for five years under former President Barack Obama and currently lives in Raanana; Dennis Ross, currently a distinguished fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy who served in the Carter, Reagan, George W. Bush and Obama administrations; former Reps. Robert Wexler (D-FL) and Steve Israel (D-NY), Miami-based developer Michael Adler, who is a close friend of Biden; and Amos Hochstein, who served in the Obama administration under Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.
In the lead: It is assumed by many observers that Shapiro, who was a surrogate for the Biden campaign, will play a senior role on Biden’s foreign policy team — either in the White House, the State Department or as envoy to Israel. Shapiro declined to comment on his future with the Biden administration. When asked if he’s in the running for the job, Israel laughed. “No comment,” he said. Wexler declined to discuss a possible appointment when contacted, but told JI, “If the reporting is accurate, the president-elect has several excellent choices.” Wexler added that Adler and Israel “would be excellent ambassadors.” In a recent interview with JI, Adler said he’s committed to helping Biden in any way he can, and while he’s not looking for the title of an ambassador, “if there is a substantive role, and I certainly think that the ambassador to Israel is a very substantive position, I would have to look at it very seriously.”
Willing to serve: Former U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica Fitz Haney, who now calls Israel home, told JI’s Amy Spiro he is open to a role in the future Biden administration, but has no current expectations. A self-described “super-volunteer” for the Biden campaign, Haney said that “if it came to pass that I’d be asked to participate in some form, it would be an honor to do so… I’ve learned never say never to anything.” In an interview on Tuesday, Ross said he “wouldn’t necessarily assume” he would be in the running. “So I’m not really thinking about it,” he told JI.
Why it matters: Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former peace negotiator, told JI that the appointment of a new ambassador will be “extremely important” to manage relations with the Netanyahu government. “The ambassador to Israel is now more powerful than ever before. It’s certainly not going to be somebody that is radioactive to Netanyahu,” Miller explained. “They’re going to appoint someone who has credibility with the Palestinians and independence, but who isn’t a red flag to Netanyahu.” Marc Stanley, a trial lawyer from Dallas, Texas, and former chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, told JI that he would expect that the next ambassador “will try to represent U.S. interests in Israel in a manner more in line with the vast majority of Jewish Americans and the pro-Israel community.”
The Israeli podcast startup that landed Hillary Clinton as a client
Brothers Nadav and Gideon Keyson could never have imagined just how timely their new podcast recording startup would be. The pair rolled out a soft launch of Riverside.fm — which enables high-quality audio and video recording with nothing more than a browser — in March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was sending journalists and podcasters around the world home from their studios. “There’s an upside, for sure, it’s very good timing,” Gideon told Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro in an interview this week conducted over Riverside.fm. “But of course we want the pandemic to end.”
High quality:The streamlined platform sets itself apart from other software by enabling users to record seamless audio and video regardless of the speed of their internet connection. “The biggest reason why people use us and not Zoom, for instance, to do their remote recordings, is we record audio and video locally on each device,” Gideon explained. “So instead of doing cloud recordings — where if you have bad internet your recording will be very bad quality — with Riverside, the recording will be 100% clean with no internet interruptions.”
Word of mouth:Earlier this month, the Tel Aviv-based company celebrated both its official rollout and the announcement of a $2.5 million seed investment from Israeli-American venture capitalist Oren Zeev. Riverside.fm has already lined up an impressive array of clients, including newly minted podcaster and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who recently launched her podcast “You and Me Both.” Gideon told JI that Clinton’s “producer reached out to us. As soon as you start building a good name, all these producers — it’s just a small world of podcast producers, content producers, especially the high-value ones… they all know each other,” he added. “Word of mouth is very strong in this market.” Gideon said Riverside.fm has nabbed a range of other high-profile clients including Spotify, Verizon Media, Marvel, Bloomberg and BBC.
All in the family:Nadav, 26, serves as CEO while Gideon, 22, is the CTO of Riverside.fm, which now counts a total of seven employees. The Keyson family is native to Amsterdam, but Gideon — who said he learned coding from a Masa Israel tech bootcamp — has relocated to Israel and Nadav is on his way. “We’re quite Zionistic,” Gideon said, noting that both his father and grandfather long dreamed of having a family business, and basing it in Israel provides extra meaning. “Israel is very good for talent, and for building your business, so it’s not only ideological — it’s just a good place to be.”
Checking in with Garry Kasparov
Garry Kasparov, the outspoken political activist and chess grandmaster, has long argued that President Donald Trump is an aspiring dictator whose actions are reminiscent of authoritarian strongmen like Russian President Vladimir Putin. That Trump is now refusing to concede the election as he makes baseless claims about voter fraud only appears to have further validated Kasparov’s instincts. Not that he’s gloating about it. “Since the end of the Cold War, we have been complacent and have failed to make a strong case for liberal democracy,” the Russian-born Kasparov, who lived under Soviet rule and now resides in New York, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent email exchange. “That has to end now.”
Keeping busy: Kasparov, 57, has been busy lately working to ensure that he can help usher in a more peaceful era in American politics after Trump’s term ends, writing opinion pieces and maintaining his lively and combative Twitter feed. The chairman of the Human Rights Foundation and founder of the Renew Democracy Initiative has also found time for lighter pursuits, having served as a special consultant on the popular new Netflix miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit.” In acknowledgement of his dedication to human rights, the Anti-Defamation League will present Kasparov with its International Leadership Award during a virtual summit on antisemitism tonight.
On antisemitism: Kasparov told JI that he is concerned about the rise of antisemitism but says there are ways to counteract it. “The first and most important one is education,” he said. “We need to make sure that all Americans know what antisemitism is and how to recognize it: Holocaust education should be universal. Second, we need to call attention to antisemitism wherever it rears its head. So whether a politician engages in antisemitic dog whistles or a Hollywood star like Ice Cube promotes antisemitic caricatures, we should be ready to call attention to it. And we need to make sure that antisemitic acts remain beyond the pale. We can all agree that Holocaust denial isn’t welcome in polite society, but we should ensure that more ‘mild’ antisemitism also carries a heavy price for its instigators.”
Read the full interview here.
Road to City Hall
Eric Adams joins crowded field of candidates for NYC mayor
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams became the third elected official to formally announce a bid to become the next mayor of New York City. In a virtual kickoff rally conducted yesterday over Zoom, Adams pledged to make the government “work much better than it is now” to lower the number of coronavirus cases in the city and deal with the devastating impact of the pandemic on the city’s most vulnerable communities.
Growing list: Adams is among a dozen candidates — including City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn), Citigroup’s Ray McGuire, and several former de Blasio administration officials — to announce a mayoral bid ahead of the Democratic primary on June 22, 2021. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who was considering a run for the city’s top job, bowed out earlier this year to focus on his mental health.
Close ties: Adams, 60, who previously represented Brooklyn’s 20th state Senate district, has longstanding ties to the borough’s Jewish community. He has been a leading voice in combating the rise of antisemitism across the city’s five boroughs. In 2018, following the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Adams, a retired NYPD captain, said he would begin carrying his handgun whenever he attends religious services. In recent months, Adams criticized de Blasio for the lack of outreach to the city’s Orthodox Jewish community amid an uptick in coronavirus cases in neighborhoods with large Jewish populations. And in 2016, he headed a delegation of law enforcement officials to Israel in a trip sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.
Making buzz: Rep. Max Rose (D-NY), who was defeated by Republican Nicole Malliotakis in his reelection bid, is reportedly considering throwing his hat in the ring for mayor. Rose, a moderate Democrat, has started making calls to potential donors to drum up support for a possible run, according to Yahoo News political reporter Hunter Walker.
👩💻 Number Cruncher: New York magazine’s Gabriel Debenedetti spotlights Becca Siegel, the Biden campaign’s 28-year-old chief analytics officer, who spent election night in Philadelphia tracking numbers, and long maintained that “in a scenario where the election was close, Florida was not going to be the [deciding] state.” [NewYork]
🤝 Tit for Tat:In Business Insider, Mitch Prothero maintains that the Israeli assassination of an Al Qaeda official in Iran this year on behalf of the U.S. indicates that “a major deal” was cut with Israel over the operation, considering that it “likely blew the cover or ability to operate half a dozen assets or more in Iran.” [BI]
↩️ Slow U-Turn:The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum posits that the world is “never going back to normal” post-Trump, and that “it is naive to imagine that the U.S. can promote democracy or the rule of law with the confidence that it did in the past.” [TheAtlantic]
⚔️ Battle Ahead: In The Washington Post, Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin highlight how Israeli settlers are girding themselves for a return to the traditional “cat-and-mouse game” with the new U.S. administration, after four years of tacit U.S. support under Trump. [WashPost]
Around the Web
💸 Modifying Pay to Slay:Palestinian officials “eager to make a fresh start with the incoming Biden administration” are reportedly “laying the groundwork” to revise their policy of paying imprisoned violent offenders. Earlier in the week, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh defended the existing policy during a conversation with the Council on Foreign Relations.
🇮🇱 Capital Confusion: The Bahraini foreign minister falsely claimed that the meetings he held yesterday in Jerusalem were actually in Tel Aviv.
📝 On the Hill: A bipartisan group of senators, including Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Rand Paul (R-KY), are co-sponsoring a resolution against the Trump administration’s massive arms sale to the UAE.
🕊️ Restoring Calm: The Palestinians are sending their ambassadors back to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain after recalling them in protest of the peace deals with Israel.
✈️ New Deal:El Al and Etihad Airways have signed a memorandum of understanding on code-sharing and frequent flyer programs.
🗳️ Final Ballots: Republican Andrew Garbarino defeated Democrat Jackie Gordon in New York’s 2nd district, while Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) beat Republican Tom Kean in New Jersey’s 7th and New York Democratic Reps. Antonio Delgado and Tom Suozzi were both reelected.
⚠️ Urgent Call:The Anti-Defamation League urged the Trump administration to rescind the appointment of Darren Beattie to the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad because he attended a 2016 meeting with white supremacists.
🥳 Holiday Cheer: The White House began to send out invitations to its annual Hanukkah receptions, slated this year for December 9.
🕵️ New Review: Victoria’s Secret is launching a second internal investigation over former chairman Les Wexner’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein, as well as allegations of misconduct in the company.
🗣️ Speaking Out: In a new documentary released tomorrow, billionaire activist George Soros says his myriad of activities are “now actually working against me” as he is targeted by conspiracy theorists.
🎭 Stepping Down: Mosaic Theater Company artistic director Ari Roth has resigned from the organization he founded six years ago following infighting and staff complaints about his leadership.
⚾ Sports Blink: Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein is stepping down from the team, and said he does not expect to join another team for the upcoming season.
🎓 Campus Beat: Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton received a $20 million donation from Kurt and Marilyn Wallach to establish an institute for Jewish and Holocaust studies.
🦸♀️ Hollywood: After a series of delays, Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman 1984” will finally be released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max on Christmas Day.
🧫 Startup Nation: Israeli scientists have carried out the world’s first biological reversal of human aging, by using oxygen therapy.
🎥 Story to Tell: A new Guardian documentary follows a 90-year-old former resistance fighter who visits the site of the concentration camp where her brother was murdered by the Nazis.
🕯️ Remembering: Brussels-based Holocaust survivor Paul Sobol died at age 94.
Pic of the Day
Lawyer, top political fundraiser and co-president of NORPAC New York, Trudy Stern turns 60…
Award-winning television and radio host, Larry King (born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger) turns 87… Retired New York State Supreme Court judge, whose tenure on the television program “The People’s Court” was far shorter than that of his wife “Judge Judy,” Jerry Sheindlin turns 87… Attorney, investment banker and former U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, Louis B. Susman turns 83… Professor of chemistry at Stanford University, Richard Neil Zare turns 81… Former 15-term member as a Democrat in Congress from New York (1983-2013), now a partner at Gotham Government Relations, Gary Ackerman turns 78… Fashion designer, Calvin Klein turns 78… Founder and president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute, James J. Zogby turns 75… President of the University of Pennsylvania since 2004, Amy Gutmann turns 71… Los Angeles-based real estate investor, Sydney Ilene Cetner turns 71… Owner of Patty’s Piano Studio in Santa Monica, California, Patricia Fiden turns 67… Cosmetic dentist and chairman of Akelos, Inc., Dr. Steven Fox turns 67… Majority leader of the California State Senate, Bob Hertzberg turns 66…
Dean and professor of Jewish history, literature and law at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel turns 65… Hollywood screenwriter and director, best known as the writer of “Being John Malkovich,” Charlie Kaufman turns 62… Angel investor and president of Sunrise Financial Group, Nathan Low turns 60… Recently retired member of the Knesset for the Kulanu party, he previously served as Israel’s minister of finance (2015-2020), Moshe Kahlon turns 60… Co-president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and director of its Washington, D.C. office, Lisa Eisen turns 57… Founder of the World Values Network and author of 30+ books, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach turns 54… Founder at Applied Optimism Group LLC and a contributor at Forbes, Seth Cohen turns 47… Member of the New York State Assembly since 2005, Andrew D. Hevesi turns 47… New York Times best-selling novelist, she is also a professor at Rutgers University-Camden, Lauren Grodstein turns 45… Digital director and executive editor at Time Magazine, Samuel P. Jacobs turns 35… Bloomberg News correspondent in Israel, Ivan Levingston turns 27… Assistant director at Northwestern University Hillel, Rachel Hillman…