Good Friday morning!
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY)was elected chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a virtual Democratic caucus meeting yesterday, beating Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) by a vote of 148 to 78.
In a statement last night, Meeks said he was “incredibly honored” to have been elected to help move the committee into a “new era of U.S. global affairs,” and pledged, among other initiatives, to work to rejoin the nuclear agreement with Iran. Read more here.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarifindicated his country is willing to comply with the terms of the nuclear deal if Europe and the U.S. honor their “commitments” without preconditions.
Last night, in an interview with CNN anchor Jake Tapper, Biden said it’s “hard to tell” whether the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh “complicated” his plan to return to the Iran deal. The president-elect acknowledged that restarting negotiations with Iran “is going to be hard — I have no illusions about that,” but maintained that in order to ensure Iran never gets a nuclear bomb, the U.S. “cannot do this alone. And that’s why we have to be part of a larger group.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazimet with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Hsafadi, at the Allenby border crossing to discuss peace efforts and bilateral issues.
In a Zoom call with the Republican Jewish Coalition, Georgia Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who are both competing to hold on to their seats in January’s special election runoff, acknowledged Biden’s victory in the presidential election, vowing to act as a buffer to the incoming administration.
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The Hollywood Republican who boosted Biden
Harry Evans Sloan, the former Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios CEO and broadcast executive turned investor and philanthropist, is a rare Hollywood type: a Republican. The son of working-class Jewish parents — his mother helped found Temple Menorah in Los Angeles’s South Bay region — the studio chief became one of Hollywood’s GOP stalwarts, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and PACs, including serving as Mitt Romney’s California finance chair during his 2012 presidential campaign. That is, until the 2016 general election. “I believed even then that we couldn’t take a chance on Trump,” Sloan told Tina Daunt for Jewish Insider in a phone interview this week. “And of course the nightmare turned out to be even worse than I envisioned then.”
Early to Joe: After Clinton’s loss in 2016, Sloan went to work strategizing the best way to defeat Trump in his 2020 reelection bid. While others in Hollywood were auditioning multiple Democratic candidates, Sloan honed in early on Joe Biden as a centrist who could appeal to moderate Republicans. “It was at a moment when Joe wasn’t doing so well,” Sloan said. “It looked like Bernie was going to be the nominee. Plus Mayor Pete [Buttigieg] was winning primaries. I just called all my friends and said: ‘It looks like if we don’t get behind Biden it’s going to be Sanders. And if it’s Sanders he’s probably going to lose to Trump.’ And so the way to stop Trump was to get behind Biden. That was my theory and my strategy for raising money for Joe last year.”
It’s personal:Sloan found Trump’s constant digs at his longtime friend Sen. John McCain especially painful, making his involvement even more personal. “It’s one thing to disagree, but to belittle McCain’s heroics is like a whole different level,” said Sloan, who serves as a trustee on the board of the McCain Institute for International Leadership. “We were all horrified and appalled. John McCain handled it much better than we did.” Last December, Sloan raised more than $1 million at a fundraiser for the former vice president in his Bel Air home. The crowd included a mix of Republicans and Democrats, among them former Paramount CEO Sherry Lansing and Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos.
No regrets:Unlike many top presidential fundraisers, Sloan says he’s not interested in a political ambassadorship. “I’ll be supportive in the best ways I can,” he said. “That won’t be one of them, I don’t think.” Sloan, who said he is proud of Biden’s “elegant approach” to uniting the country, is now raising money for the president-elect’s inauguration committee. “It wasn’t until I was almost 70 years old that I raised money for Democrats,” Sloan said. “And I’m not ashamed or afraid to admit it at all.”
The hidden side of Shimon Peres
For more than 25 years, Avi Gil was an aide, confidant, advisor and friend to Shimon Peres. While Gil, 65, remained largely in Peres’s shadow throughout his career, two years following the former president’s death, Gil published a remarkably candid portrait of his time in formal and informal government service, now translated into English by Eylon Levy as Shimon Peres: An Insider’s Account of the Man and the Struggle for a New Middle East. Gil spoke to Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro about his decades working in political life and the legacy Peres left behind.
Truth teller:“I didn’t feel it was right to write the book before he was gone,” Gil told JI in a phone interview this week from his home in Tel Aviv, noting that Peres repeatedly pushed him to write his memoirs. And even when Gil pointed out that Peres would not necessarily be flattered by his account, “he said ‘you should write the truth, I have no problem with the truth.’ That was his reaction, and I was quite surprised, because it’s not typical to the average politician.” The book, based on Gil’s diaries, notes and memories of several decades in political life, paints a humanizing and often unflattering portrait of one of Israel’s most prominent and enduring politicians.
Sidelined: Gil is blunt about Peres’s consistent role as “a supporting actor who aspired to a leading role” in Israeli government, repeatedly losing elections and having to fight for his dreams and ambitions from the sidelines. Gil details the deep enmity between Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who could never quite put their rivalry to rest even when they were reluctant partners, and also admits to Peres’s pettiness and desperation for attention, noting “his inability to be magnanimous toward his own staff and his voracious appetite for credit.” He details dirty political machinations and backstabbing, as well as media manipulation including lying to the press, leaking damaging information and planting fake stories.
Behind the scenes: In the book, Gil shares numerous intriguing behind-the scenes anecdotes from his time and travels with Peres. The book includes mentions of when the 70-year-old Peres went dancing at a nightclub in Paris until 3 a.m. after a day of negotiating with the Palestinians, and when Peres introduced Palestinian advisor Nabil Shaath to Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, during which the then-foreign minister attempted to convince Milchan to create a “Free Willy”-style film about a camel who inspired Middle Eastern peace. Gil also revealed how, when Peres was president and Netanyahu was prime minister, Netanyahu blamed Peres — with some justification — for providing President Barack Obama with the idea of calling for negotiations based on the 1967 borders.
Secret peace talks:Much of the book details the intensive undercover negotiations Peres conducted that led to both the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 1994 peace treaty Israel signed with Jordan — including the disguises Peres and Gil donned to slip across the border into Amman. And 25 years later, Gil greeted news of Israeli normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan with tempered optimism. “Peres would have been the first to congratulate Netanyahu on these peace agreements,” Gil said. “But in the same breath, he would warn that we must not delude ourselves that the division of land between us and the Palestinians continues to be the indispensable condition for peace.”
House staffers expect Pelosi to continue status quo despite shrunken majority
Although Democrats will enter the 117th Congress in January with a significantly narrower House majority than they have enjoyed for the last two years, House staffers say they are not expecting Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to significantly change her strategy in the next term. Pelosi will likely continue to keep a firm grip on her caucus to manage the ongoing rift between the progressive and moderate wings of the party, three House staffers told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
View from the ranks: Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), a conservative Chicago-area Democrat who has served in Congress since 2005 and who lost his primary race earlier this year to a progressive challenger, said Pelosi will have a tough challenge holding her caucus together during the upcoming term. “The narrow House majority is going to make things incredibly difficult,” Lipinski said. “There will be a lot of interesting politics going on in the House as Speaker Pelosi tries to keep both the left flank and the right flank of the Democratic Party on board for any bipartisan legislation that comes out of the Senate that President Biden really wants to get passed into law.”
Upper chamber: Lipinski predicted that the Senate will likely be the main engine of legislation in the upcoming term, and that President-elect Joe Biden will likely have a significant role to play both in helping to wrangle House Democrats and in encouraging Democrats in both chambers to moderate their stances. “The question is going to be how does the House… pass what the Senate passes,” Lipinski said. “President Biden is going to have to step in and really ask the Democratic Caucus in the House to go along with some legislation that probably the progressives are not going to be happy with in the House. And if they don’t, [Democratic leaders will] probably have to reach out to moderate Republicans in the House.”
Bridge builder: “I think Pelosi and [House Majority Leader Steny] Hoyer continue to be effective notwithstanding their age because they are extraordinary bridge-builders,” one aide told JI. “They are able to coalesce and bring disparate parts of the caucus together in ways that few people can… I don’t see leadership changing their modus operandi much.” A second aide agreed, noting that Pelosi “demands loyalty and… perfection,” and predicting Pelosi will be willing to cut deals with both the progressive members in her party and moderate Republicans — when needed — to pass bills. But they also acknowledged that the Democrat’s smaller majority will create “legislative barriers.”
Floor battle: Three of the Democrats who voted against Pelosi in 2019, Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Jason Crow (D-CO) and Jim Cooper (D-TN), told JI they will vote for Pelosi, while several other members who opposed her last bid lost their seats in last month’s elections. Two legislators — Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and Jared Golden (D-ME) — have publicly said they will not back Pelosi, but others have yet to publicly commit to a candidate.
Bonus: In further comments to JI’s Marc Rod, Lipinski sounded the alarm on Democrats’ electoral future. “Democrats need to be concerned about a Republican who comes along who embraces some of the policy positions that President Trump did but who is a much more likeable individual. That should be a concern looking at the presidential election four years from now,” the Illinois representative said. “A President Trump who was more likable could have won, and would have won.”
🤳 Unfriend:In Tablet magazine, Emily Benedek reveals how a 30,000-member Facebook group for women in Los Angeles began expelling its Jewish members after an argument broke out in August. “What I saw and experienced in that group,” said one member, “was Jew-hatred cloaked in the veil of social justice.” [Tablet]
🤝 Joining Forces:Shalom Lipner, a 26-year veteran of the Israeli prime minister’s office, writes for The Atlantic Council that Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “are hunkering down now to meet the challenges of the impending post-Trump era.” [AtlanticCouncil]
👨💼 Milk n’ Honey:The Jewish Chronicle’s Jenni Frazer profiles Dan Rosenfield, the recently appointed chief of staff to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent a year milking cows on an Israeli kibbutz in his teenage years and details his recent work as chair of the World Jewish Relief. [TheJC]
Around the Web
💵 New Filings: Sheldon and Miriam Adelson gave $15 million to the pro-Trump super PAC Preserve America in October, boosting their total 2020 GOP contributions over $85 million.
👩🏼💼 Under Oath:White House senior advisor Ivanka Trump confirmed yesterday that she was questioned by investigators over spending by the Trump Inaugural Committee, but claimed it was motivated by politics.
🔍 Under Scrutiny:A federal judge unsealed court documents this week relating to alleged illegal lobbying by Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Jared Kushner, and GOP fundraiser Elliot Broidy.
🕍 Religious Freedom:The Supreme Court ruled yesterday to overturn a lower court ruling upholding California’s COVID-19 curb on indoor religious services.
💼 Presidential Reward: President Donald Trump appointed former Special Representative on Iran Brian Hook as a member of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in the Smithsonian Institution board of trustees. Trump also appointed Republican lobbyist Jeff Miller to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.
🗣️ Speaking Out:Former CIA director John Brennan toldHaaretz’s Yossi Melman that Netanyahu “is not a very principled or ethical individual.”
🇶🇦 Not Now:Qatar’s foreign minister said his country will not sign a normalization deal with Israel anytime soon since it won’t “add value to the Palestinian people.”
✈️ Striking Deals: Bahrain’s national airline Gulf Air signed a memorandum of understanding with Israel’s El Al Airlines on direct flights starting next year. Bahraini Minister Zayed bin Rashid al-Zayani said yesterday the Gulf country won’t discriminate against imports from Israeli settlements.
⏲️ Waiting Game: U.S. envoy on Iran Elliot Abrams said that Tehran is unlikely to immediately retaliate for Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s killing, so as not to anger the incoming Biden administration.
⚠️ Warning: The Israeli government issued a travel advisory against flying to the UAE and Bahrain out of concern that Israeli tourists could be targets for Iranian retaliation.
🛫 Hide Out: Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah is reportedly relocating from Lebanon to Iran out of fear of assassination.
🏥 Name Blame: The San Francisco board of supervisors condemned the naming of a hospital after Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, who donated $75 million to the institution.
😡 Urgent Call:A U.K. bipartisan parliamentary panel is urging Microsoft to fix its search engine, Bing, after it appeared to promote Holocaust denial and antisemitic tropes.
⚽ Taking a Stance: The English Premier League has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism.
🎙 Podcast Playback: Moneyball’s Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s joined Dan Senor’s “Post Corona” podcast to discuss the fragile future of youth sports, the COVID-spike in sports gambling, the pandemic’s birth of professional sports you’ve never heard of, and the rise of Israeli sports-tech start-up PlayerMaker. In the episode, Beane also reveals his love of Israeli history.
🔤 Back In Time: Germany is expected to return to pre-World War II alphabet tables, going back to the system after the Nazis removed names with Jewish associations.
🗳️ ‘Fake’ News: A local candidate in Namibia named Adolf Hitler Uunona won his election in a landslide, but insisted his agenda doesn’t reflect Nazi ideology.
🎥 Hollywood: Fran Drescher said she was happy to star in a Christmas movie despite being Jewish because “I celebrate anything that feels happy and positive.”
🥪 Big Bite: Eaterspotlights the D.C.-area kosher food truck Schmaltz Brothers, which includes a vegan cheeseburger and fried matzo ball bites.
🕯️Remembering: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alison Lurie died at age 94.
Wine of the Week
JI’s wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews the Hagafen 2018 Estate Dry Riesling:
This past Friday I took a drive deep into the Saudi Arabian desert to the largest date farm in the Kingdom. I have long maintained a great dislike for the taste of dates, however, when sitting with the owner of the farm — one of the world’s biggest experts on dates — I had no choice but to at least try one. A whole new world instantly opened up, and I hope that in another lifetime I will be able to review the more than 200 different date varietals. However, for this week’s review, I will stick to wine. A pairing I can now appreciate is the Hagafen 2018 Dry Riesling and a Saudi Saghai date.
This wine is crisp, bold and edgy. Tangy grapefruit greets the front of your palate and wakes you up, no matter what time of the day. The stone fruit in the mid-palate lowers your blood pressure and the lemon zest on the finish makes this wine rather fun to drink. Buy much of this wine as not that much was made. Enjoy this wine at any time of the day, chilled, and of course, with the best date you can find.
Purchase the bottle here.
Actor best known for playing Stuart Bloom on the CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” Kevin Sussman turns 50 today…
FRIDAY: Biographer, author of six books and winner of the 1980 National Book Award, A. Scott Berg turns 71… Television director and producer, Dan Attias turns 69… Founder and lead guide of the Adventure Rabbi program based in Boulder, Colorado, she is the author of 11 books, Jamie Korngold turns 55… Publisher and founder of FlashReport on California politics and principal of the Fleischman Consulting Group, Jon Fleischman turns 53… Co-founder of Knighthead Capital Management, Ara D. Cohen turns 50… Screenwriter and producer, he co-created ABC’s “Once Upon a Time,” Adam Horowitz turns 49… President of Warner Bros. Pictures, he is also the founder and former CEO of Relativity Media, Ryan Kavanaugh turns 46… Grammy Award-winning violinist, Miri Ben-Ari turns 42… Comedian and former host of HQ Trivia, one of his viral videos is “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Jew,” Scott Rogowsky turns 36… Assistant United States attorney in the Southern District of New York, he’s also an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves, Sam Adelsberg turns 34… Senior campaigns director at Climate Power 2020, Sarah Baron turns 30… First round pick in the 2016 National Hockey League draft, he is a center for the NHL’s Nashville Predators, Luke Kunin turns 23… Israeli fashion model, as a 14-year-old she became the lead model for Dior, in 2019 she enlisted in the IDF, Sofia Mechetner turns 20… Tony Sarif…
SATURDAY: Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist, Sheldon Lee Glashow turns 88… St. Louis-based senior living developer, Charles J. Deutsch turns 71… Betti Greenstein turns 69… Professor at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Stuart Neil Brotman turns 68… United States ambassador to France and Monaco since November 2017, Jamie Luskin McCourt turns 67… Speakers bureau chair at Hadassah’s Southern California chapter, Esther Gluskin Winard turns 67… Mediator and arbitrator for JAMS since 1989, Michael D. Young turns 67… Venture capitalist and investment advisor, Pascal Norman Levensohn turns 60… NYC-based author and clinical psychologist with specialties in aging and cancer, Mindy Greenstein, Ph.D. turns 58… Professor at the University of Chicago Law School, Eric A. Posner turns 55… Professor and dean emeritus of Columbia Law School, former CEO of the JDC and a onetime law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David M. Schizer turns 52… Ontario-born supermodel and actress, Shalom Harlow turns 47… Urologist at Westchester (NY) Medical Group, Judd Boczko, M.D. turns 47… President of The LS Group and political fundraiser for leading GOP politicians, Lisa Spies turns 46… Co-founder and president of Axios, Roy Schwartz turns 45… Israeli-born, acclaimed video game developer, Neil Druckmann turns 42… Director of communications at e-sports firm Vindex, Adam S. Rosenberg turns 40… Managing director of government relations at The Blackstone Group, he was chief of staff for Secretary Mnuchin at the U.S. Treasury, Eli H. Miller turns 38… Media correspondent for The New York Times, Michael Mendel Grynbaum turns 36… Senior news assistant on the obituary desk of The New York Times, Alexander E. Traub turns 30… Associate director of intergovernmental affairs for New York State Attorney General Tish James, Jonathan Shabshaikhes turns 25… Israeli model, she represented Israel at the 2017 Miss Universe pageant where her selfie with Miss Iraq went viral, Adar Gandelsman turns 23…
SUNDAY: Judy Clark turns 86… Moshe Hochenberg turns 83… Member of the National Assembly of Quebec for 20 years and active in a range of Jewish organizations, Lawrence Bergman turns 80… Renowned artist whose sculpture, photography, neon and video works appear in museums world-wide, Bruce Nauman turns 79… Israeli-born producer of over 130 full-length films, Arnon Milchan turns 76… Founder of Susan G. Komen (named after her late sister), she also served as U.S. ambassador to Hungary (2001-2003) and chief of protocol of the U.S. (2007-2009), Nancy Goodman Brinker turns 74… U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Ohio, he serves on the executive committee of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, Judge Dan Aaron Polster turns 69… Cell and molecular biologist who is the director of research and professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, David L. Spector turns 68… Founder of Craigslist, Craig Newmark turns 68… Faculty member at Harvard Law School since 1981, professor since 1986, she served as dean of Harvard Law School from 2009 to 2017, Martha Minow turns 66… SVP and general counsel at United Airlines, he was previously deputy mayor of Chicago and general counsel to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Robert S. Rivkin turns 60… EVP and chief operating officer of the Inter-American Development Bank, Julie Katzman turns 59… Emmy Award-winning producer, writer, director, actor, and comedian, Judd Apatow turns 53… Member of Knesset for the Likud party since 2015 and deputy minister of health, he was a fighter pilot for the IDF and then a civilian pilot for El Al before entering politics, Yoav Kisch turns 52… Professor of economics at the University of Chicago, Michael Greenstone turns 52… Professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, Julian E. Zelizer turns 51… Former head of communications at Start-Up Nation Central, and a tech editor for The Wall Street Journal, Amir Mizroch turns 45… EVP in the NYC office of PR firm BerlinRosen, Dan Levitan turns 38… Editor-in-chief at The Air Current, Jon Ostrower turns 37… Atlanta native, he is the VP of operations and business development at HevenDrones, based in Northern Israel, Ilan Regenbaum turns 30… Beth Argaman turns 30… Senior research fellow with a focus on the Mediterranean and Middle East at Rome’s Istituto Affari Internazionali, Andrea Dessì… Joe Blumenthal…