👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Here they go again. A last-minute bid to delay calling a new election in Israel failed 49-47 in the Knesset overnight. If a national budget is not passed by midnight tonight, the Knesset will automatically disperse, with a new election slated for March.
Despite the delay bill being backed by Likud and Blue and White, a series of defections from both parties ultimately doomed the legislation. Likud MK Michal Shir voted against the legislation, and then announced she would be joining Gideon Sa’ar’s new party.
White House senior advisor Jared Kushner is leading a U.S. delegation on a direct flight from Tel Aviv to Rabat today to hold talks on taking steps toward upgrading ties between Israel and Morocco.
During a meeting yesterday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Kushner said: “Regional transformation has officially begun… we must continue to write new and exciting chapters and not revert to old thinking and failed ideas.”
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft is slated to arrive in Israel today and will hold a joint meeting this evening with Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan.
Congress passed legislation last night reinstating Sudan’s sovereign immunity — with an exception allowed for lawsuits already underway by victims of the September 11 attacks — paving the way for Sudanese-Israeli rapprochement to move forward.
President-elect Joe Biden announced that David Kamin, a former Obama White House aide who is currently a law professor at NYU, will be deputy director of the White House National Economic Council.
Biden is likely to pick Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona to be his secretary of education, according to CNN.
Progressives are planning to take on more incumbent Democrats in the 2022 midterms after a largely disappointing 2020, according to Politico. “The lesson that progressives can draw from this cycle is the importance of getting involved in primaries,” Rep.-elect Mondaire Jones (D-NY) told the publication. “There are a lot of people in the House from districts more Democratic than my own who are not where they need to be on any number of issues.”
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Hungary’s new envoy in D.C. is not new to issues of antisemitism
Szabolcs Takács, Hungary’s newly appointed ambassador to the United States, is beginning his posting at what is shaping up to be an uncertain moment for diplomatic relations between his home country and the United States. Takács, who concurrently serves as Hungary’s special envoy for antisemitism and as the head of Hungary’s delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, spoke to Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel about his background and the diplomatic challenges he is facing.
Pivot ahead: The past four years have been relatively clear-cut for Hungarian diplomats, as President Donald Trump maintained an unusually chummy relationship with Hungary’s far-right leader, Viktor Orbán. Still, in a recent Zoom interview with Jewish Insider, Takács, 49, was sanguine about the future, while acknowledging Hungary’s close bond with the Trump administration.“When it comes to illegal immigration, radicalism, family policy, we could work very well with the Trump administration, and we made it clear that we enjoyed the cooperation.” But he is still looking forward to a constructive dialogue with the new government. “We are allies in NATO,” Takács said. “I think we are in the same family. And I believe that this is the basis that we have to build on.”
Joint interests: Takács is proud to point out that Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó was the only minister from the EU to attend the White House signing of the Abraham Accords in September. “It was a very, very strong signal,” Takács said. “I think it’s a clear acknowledgement of Hungary’s support to the State of Israel and to the U.S. policies.” Takács continued: “For us, the future and security and stability of Israel is of strategic importance,” he said, adding his hope that Biden will continue to build on the normalization deals Trump helped set forth. “This is a strong pillar of the Hungarian foreign policy doctrine.”
Background: A career diplomat, Takács boasts an extensive resume. His past experience includes stints abroad in far-flung locales including South Korea, India, China, Australia and Qatar. More recently, he has held high-level policy appointments in the Hungarian prime minister’s office as an intermediary on European Union affairs. “I’m very much involved in European Union debates and then global issues that are dealing with antisemitism,” Takács said, “and I’m very happy that I can continue this job as an ambassador of Hungary in the U.S.”
Fine line: The legacy of the Holocaust casts a troubling shadow in Hungary, whose government was complicit in the Nazi genocide of Europe’s Jewish population, but has never directly acknowledged its role in the Holocaust. “The Hungarian government wants to put forward this friendly attitude toward Israel and toward Jews,” said Susan R. Suleiman, a professor emerita at Harvard who has writtenabout Hungary’s tortured relationship with the Holocaust. “But it doesn’t give you the whole story.” Takács, for his part, describes the Holocaust as “one of the darkest periods of Hungarian history,” while making clear that he is an Orbán acolyte. “I would say that the prime minister is the most philosemitic prime minister Hungary has had” since Hungary emerged from communist rule, he said, adding that “the Hungarian government is very much committed to the Holocaust remembrance policy and also that the Hungarian Jewish community should feel safe and secure.”
Legislation honoring Julius Rosenwald clears Congress, awaits presidential signature
How should Congress memorialize one of America’s greatest Jewish philanthropists? With a national park, according to new legislation. A bill that passed Congress yesterday afternoon aims to kickstart the process of creating a national park dedicated to Julius Rosenwald, the former chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Co. and a prolific philanthropist in the early 20th century, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Backstory: In collaboration with famed educator Booker T. Washington, Rosenwald, who helped to found the organization that became Chicago’s Jewish United Fund (JUF), spent millions of dollars to fund the construction of more than 5,000 schools for Black communities throughout the South beginning in 1910. The schools educated hundreds of thousands of Black Americans, including poet and activist Maya Angelou and the late Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).
On the Hill: The Senate passed the bill Monday by a voice vote, after a House vote of 387-5, with 37 members not voting, last Thursday. Reps. Justin Amash (I-MI), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Tom Rice (R-SC) and Chip Roy (R-TX) voted against the bill. The legislation’s passage in Congress marks the culmination of a yearslong campaign in which advocates lobbied members of Congress, in particular Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL), who introduced the House resolution, and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who introduced the corresponding resolution in the Senate.
Backing: Davis told JI on Friday that his connection to Rosenwald runs deep, including a stint as a clerk in the Sears flagship store in Chicago. “When we were approached relative to this bill it was an automatic,” Davis said. “Julius Rosenwald has not gotten the kind of recognition that he is due, period… The reason it means so much to me is I grew up in rural America. I know the history of these communities that didn’t have a school.” The congressman added: “If there was ever an individual who deserved [this], not for himself — because… he wasn’t that kind of guy — but for what it has meant and what it means and what he has done for America and the world.”
Family hesitation: Some of Rosenwald’s descendants are hesitant about the park project, arguing that he strongly eschewed personal fame and recognition for his philanthropic works during his lifetime. David Stern, one of Rosenwald’s great-grandchildren, said he has mixed feelings about the project and has remained uninvolved in the campaign because the Rosenwald descendants “have never really been into legacy, into institutional memories. We don’t believe in building the buildings and naming them after people, things like that.” But he also noted that Rosenwald’s legacy of supporting the Black community is worthy of acknowledgement and has inspired philanthropy in others, pointing to columnist Courtland Milloy’s recent Washington Post article touting the Rosenwald schools as a model for improving Black community education in a post-pandemic world.
On the hill
Congress passes omnibus spending bill, including nonprofit security grants
Congress passed a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill for 2021 — alongside a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package — last night. Several Jewish community leaders applauded key provisions in the nearly 6,000-page bill, including a major increase in funding for nonprofit security, direct relief for parochial schools and a new program aimed at incentivizing Israeli-Palestinian peace through economic cooperation, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Nonprofit security: The omnibus bill includes an increase in funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP). The final funding amount is double the $90 million provided for the program in 2020, but just half of the $360 million called for by the House and a bipartisan group of senators. “We feel very good. It’s enormously significant,” Jewish Federations of North America President and CEO Eric Fingerhut told JI on Monday. Nathan Diament, executive director for the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, said the doubled funding “is historic and substantial and is going to be very very helpful to the community.”
COVID relief: One major change from the initial CARES Act stimulus bill passed in March is that the latest relief bill includes $2.75 billion in specifically designated funding for K-12 private day schools, including parochial schools, thanks in part to advocacy by the Orthodox Union and the Conference of Catholic Bishops. “There was some support in the CARES Act, but… our schools really did not see much of that money,” said Diament. “So we had to make a more intense and focused push in this legislation to make sure that it would be done in a way that the money would actually get to our schools.”
Partnership Fund for Peace: Also included in the massive spending bill is the People-to-People Partnership for Peace Fund. The legislation, spearheaded by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), provides $50 million per year for each of the next five years to fund subsidies for joint economic ventures and “people-to-people” exchanges among Palestinians, Israelis and Americans. “At its core, this bill is about dignity, opportunity and peace,” Fortenberry told JI in an interview on Friday. “I think this is not only a critical piece of legislation, but one of the more substantive pieces of legislation to come along in years that goes to the heart of creating the preconditions for peace, mutuality, interdependence, well-being opportunity for all people.”
Read more here.
Bonus: Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) voted against the rule to accelerate debate on the legislation. With a growing ‘Squad’ following the November elections and a slim Democratic majority in the next Congress, the group signaled that they could be a thorn in House leadership’s side next year.
🪑 Seat at the Table: The UAE, Bahrain and Israel are lobbying behind the scenes for a role in the Biden administration’s expected renegotiation of the Iran nuclear deal, reports Politico’s Nahal Toosi. “It is important for us to be a part of the conversation, because it is us who have a front row seat to any development,” said Bahraini Ambassador Abdulla al-Khalifa. [Politico]
📝 Parting Words: Outgoing U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov shared some parting thoughts ahead of his impending departure, reiterating his belief that he remains “firmly convinced that the world cannot leave the [Israeli-Palestinian] situation unattended.” [Mladenov.org]
🚨 Inside Out: The New York Times’s Katrin Bennhold documentshow neo-Nazis are growing in number and influence inside the German police, including a threat to a Turkish human rights lawyer that originated inside a Frankfurt police station. [NYTimes]
Around the Web
💵 Too Much? Nearing a 24-year high for the shekel against the dollar, Israel’s central bank is looking to roll back the shekel’s record momentum over fears of insufficient price inflation.
🚔 Neutralized: Israeli police killed a Palestinian man who opened fire on a police post at the Lion’s Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City yesterday.
🇺🇸🇨🇳 Red Flag: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker issued a rare public warning yesterday over the security risks posed by Chinese investment in Israel.
🇮🇩 Next Up? A U.S. official said Indonesia could receive billions in U.S. funding if it joins the growing list of countries establishing diplomatic ties with Israel.
☢️ Rejoin: The European signatories to the 2015 Iran deal have indicated their backing for President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to rejoin the agreement.
📵 United Front: Microsoft, Google, Cisco and Facebook are joining up in a legal battle against Israel’s NSO group, which has been accused of illegal hacking.
🧑⚖️ On Defense: The Israeli Supreme Court is hearing a legal challenge to Israel’s Nation-State Law, based on 15 petitions filed by Arab rights groups and other organizations.
🛒 Big Buy: Israeli company Trigo, which provides a platform for businesses to facilitate virtual checkouts, announced on Monday that it raised $60 million in a Series B funding round.
💳 Good Credit: Max Levchin’s fintech startup Affirm is preparingan IPO in the increasingly competitive sector of buy-now-pay-later services.
💉 Relief in Sight: Most of the 600 residents of the Hebrew Home in Riverdale will be vaccinated against COVID-19 this week, as the vaccines arrived at the New York senior facility.
✍️ Rewriting History: A historian at the University of Warwick was fined €4,000 for alleging without proof that a Holocaust survivor had a lesbian affair with a concentration camp guard.
⚖️ In Court: The Trump administration is weighing a request to provide Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman with legal immunity over an alleged assassination plot.
🎺 Standing Ovation: Nick Paumgarten profiles Adam Weiner — the showman and creative force behind the band Low Cut Connie — whose “Mr. Rogers-meets-Little Richard persona” has drawn a fandom including Barack Obama, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen.
🥟 Delivery Dumplings: In the Huffington Post, Brittany Wong advocates to “take a page from Jewish Americans” and order Chinese takeout on Christmas to support struggling Asian-owned restaurants.
👟 Jump for Joy: A new parkour training facility has opened up for athletes in the Gaza Strip.
📽️ Small Screen: Palestinian director Annemarie Jacir is developinga TV series based on the 2006 novel Mornings in Jenin.
👨💻 Transition: Daily Beast politics editor and MSNBC contributor Sam Stein was tapped as Politico’s next White House editor.
🕯️ Remembering: Attorney Mark Schlefer, who in the 1960s helped to write what would eventually become the Freedom of Information Act, died at 98. Ezra Vogel, a Harvard scholar and author, died at 90. Sol Tolchinksy, who represented Canada at the 1948 Olympics, died of COVID-19 complications at 91.
Song of the Day
Hasidic recording artist Avraham Fried and Israeli singer and left-wing activist Aviv Geffen released a duet this week titled “Batzoret,” meaning “in the drought,” urging hope and unity.
NPR correspondent covering the State Department and Washington’s diplomatic corps, Michele Kelemen turns 53…
Former president of the World Bank and U.S. deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz turns 77… NYC-based political consultant since 1969, ordained as a rabbi in 2011, his early career included stints as a policeman, taxi driver and bounty hunter, Henry “Hank” Sheinkopf turns 71… Associate at Mersky, Jaffe & Associates, Rabbi Kerry Olitzky turns 66… Senior managing director in the D.C. office of Newmark Knight Frank, Lisa Benjamin turns 61… Rabbi at Temple Sinai of Palm Desert, Calif., David Novak turns 58…
Managing director of investment banking at Young America Capital, Michael Huttner turns 51… U.S. senator from Texas since 2013, Ted Cruz turns 50… CEO of American Council of Young Political Leaders, Libby Rosenbaum turns 39… Visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist for Tablet magazine, James Kirchick turns 37… MFA candidate at the Helen Zell Writers’ program at the University of Michigan, Sofia Ergas Groopman turns 31… National campus outreach coordinator at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Carly Korman Schlakman turns 26… Head of philanthropy and impact investment for EJF Philanthropies, Simone Friedman… Liberty Consultants’ Lisa Brazie…