Good Thursday morning!
Former CIA Deputy Director David S. Cohen is reportedly President-elect Joe Biden’s top pick to head the agency, though an official announcement is not expected to be made until at least next week.
On Capitol Hill, the full House Democratic caucus will vote today on the chairs of key committees, including the competitive Foreign Affairs and Appropriations Committees.
The U.S. government will reportedly withdraw some staff from its embassy in Baghdad as tensions rise with Iran — and ahead of the January 3 anniversary of the killing of Qassem Soleimani.
Iran enacted a law yesterday ramping up its uranium enrichment and threatening to bar international nuclear inspectors if U.S. sanctions are not lifted by February.
White House senior advisor Jared Kushnermet yesterday with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani during a visit to Doha. Qatar and Saudi Arabia appear poised to end their three-year feud after intensive lobbying by Kushner and other Trump administration officials.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will discuss peace with the Arab world and his strategy on Iran in a virtual conversation with the Hudson Institute’s senior fellow Michael Doran later today.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenaziaddressed the leadership of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations yesterday morning.
Several Jewish leaders told The Forward that they have politely declined an invitation to attend next week’s White House Hanukkah party due to the pandemic.
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on the hill
Mondaire Jones says he wants to bridge the ideological divide
Mondaire Jones has experienced a swift rise since he embarked last year on his longshot bid to dethrone Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who nullified his challenge by announcing her retirement. Jones capitalized on his early presence in the race, fending off seven candidates in the primary and defeating his Republican opponent by double digits. Since arriving on the Hill for orientation, Jones — one of the first openly gay, Black men to serve in Congress — has only seen his profile rise after being unanimously selected as freshman representative to the House leadership. “It’s a big deal,” Jones, 33, marveled to Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in an interview. “I was just on a five-and-a-half-hour call yesterday for the Steering and Policy Committee.”
Mediator: In his new role, Jones has been tasked with making recommendations on committee assignments and chairmanships, while meeting weekly with House leaders including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC). Jones made clear that he respects his party elders, a quality that suggests he could serve as a kind of generational mediator at a moment when many of the party’s younger, more left-leaning members have found themselves at odds with the predominantly older House leadership. Jones affectionately described his still nascent relationship with Pelosi and Clyburn as though he were speaking about an aunt and uncle. “Oh, I adore them,” he said.
What Squad? Jones campaigned on progressive issues like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, but his political sensibility seems to veer moderate. Asked if he identified with the coalition of progressive representatives dubbed “The Squad,” Jones was reluctant to directly equate himself with the group. “What I have always said in response to that question is that I’m going to Congress to be Mondaire Jones and to distinguish myself and to work with everybody,” he said, noting that he would work with lawmakers from both parties. As an example, Jones told JI he was planning to collaborate with Republican congressman-elect Andrew Garbarino of Long Island, whom he described as a friend, to restore the state and local tax deduction in New York.
Smooth transition: As he prepares to take office, Jones has been working closely with Lowey, whose legacy he says he admires and whose counsel he appreciates. “She’s delightful,” he said. “She and her staff have been very helpful in the transition process.” In an email to JI, Lowey said she was “proud to support Mondaire” and that he “has proven his enthusiasm for and dedication to solving the most urgent problems our communities face.” Jones offered a concise list of goals he hopes to accomplish in his first term, including securing COVID-19 relief funding. “We also have to press forward on democracy reforms,” he said, such as enacting automatic voter registration and replacing “partisan gerrymandering” with independent redistricting commissions.
Going to Israel: Jones represents Rockland County, which is home to the largest Jewish population per capita of any county in the U.S., and he plans to visit Israel during his first term if it is safe and possible to do so. In previousinterviews with JI, he has positioned himself as a strong advocate of the Jewish state, rejecting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement while supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Elliot Forchheimer, executive director of the Westchester Jewish Council, said he has had productive conversations with Jones and that he looks forward to working with him when he assumes office. “He has a good understanding, I think, of the place of Israel as the democratic ally of the United States,” Forchheimer told JI.
View from Israel
Israelis expect a different approach from the Biden administration
Former Israeli defense officials offered differing views of the incoming Biden administration’s top Middle East priorities this week. Former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon celebrated the former vice president’s victory, while former Defense Minister Naftali Bennett praised President Donald Trump for his work in the region and expressed hope that President-elect Joe Biden’s administration will chart a different course from previous Democratic administrations.
Return to two states vision: In a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh, Ayalon stressed that the Biden administration’s emphasis on diplomacy will also prioritize resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of a broad initiative to move forward with both advancing peace and countering Iran’s efforts to destabilize the region. “Israel will not be safe, it will not be a Jewish democracy, unless we come to an agreement with the Palestinians,” posited Ayalon, who co-founded the Israeli NGO Blue White Future in 2009 to push for a negotiated peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. “I believe that in order to create this Sunni coalition as a future basis to confront Iran and create more stability in the region, we have to come to an agreement with the Palestinians.”
Older and wiser: Ayalon suggested that while Israelis appreciated Trump’s support of Israel, the foreign policy team Biden has assembled will gauge Israeli concerns about a return to the Obama administration’s approach to the conflict, which was perceived by Israeli leadership at the time as aggressive and somewhat hostile. “Even if they are the same people [who served in the Obama administration], they are older and they are much more experienced,” he stressed. Israeli leaders may also be more willing to consider peace process concessions depending on the next administration’s approach to Iran. “If Israelis will feel that [a two-state solution] is the price that Israel will have to pay in order to remove the Iranian threat, a majority will support it,” he suggested.
Hope and change: In a Zoom call hosted by the Zionist Organization of America yesterday, Bennett — whose party, Yamina, is polling in second place behind its right-wing rival Likud — projected that the Biden administration will learn from the mistakes of the past and take a different approach that will be more acceptable to the nationalist camp. “The other path has been taken so many times and failed so many times, and brought immense damage and suffering on the region,” Bennett asserted. “There is a price to pay for failed so-called peace attempts — usually it ends up with another round of violence and people die. And I think the incoming administration is very experienced. They’ve been there, seen that, done that. I’m not ignoring the well-known opinions, but I do think that we need to sit down and think thoroughly about how to manage the disagreements that we might have.”
Bonus: Bennett toldBloomberg yesterday that the world is a safer place following the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Bubbie knows best
A granddaughter’s reflections on RBG
To much of the world, she was known as the Notorious RBG. But to one woman, the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a tireless champion of women’s equality, was also known as “Bubbie” — dispenser of both wisdom and high fashion. In an essay for Harper’s, Clara Spera, a lawyer herself, reflects on the lessons she learned from her grandmother, and the items of clothing she lifted from her closet.
Closet raid: “While she usually ‘lent’ me (but with no return date) most things I liked — my favorite blazer is a vintage Brooks Brothers number plucked from her wardrobe — there were some things she wasn’t so willing to part with,” Spera recalled. “Once, after having identified a sumptuous cashmere winter coat, I wore it into her room and announced that I thought it looked particularly good on me. Barely glancing up from her mountain of briefs, she gave me the once-over and firmly replied, ‘Yes, and it looks very good on me too.’”
Living legacy: “Now that my grandmother is gone, I am humbled and comforted when I wear her clothes. These items carry more than just a legacy of sartorial elegance; they are a tangible reminder of the woman underneath the judicial robe and of everything she taught me, from lessons in style to how best to continue to strive toward a ‘more perfect union.’ Her thoughtful wardrobe choices — never an accessory out of place, a story behind every piece of clothing she wore — were but one aspect of her incredible mind and attention to detail.”
A woman’s worth: “As I think about the hundreds of thousands of women who have left the labor force during the coronavirus pandemic, I realize how much work is left to achieve my grandmother’s vision for gender equity. It is women who have shouldered the tremendous burdens of caregiving in this extraordinary time.”
🍊 Living Memory:In The Boston Globe, Meredith Goldstein highlights the effort by journalist Hilary Krieger and her brother, Jonathan, to honor the legacy of their father, Neil Kreiger — who died of COVID-19 in April — by lobbying for his favorite made-up word, orbisculate, to be added to the dictionary. [BostonGlobe]
📖 History Bites: In Mosaic Magazine, author Tevi Troy writes about the history of Israel’s ambassadors to Washington dating back to the Jewish state’s founding. Troy notes Ambassador Abba Eban’s unsuccessful efforts to bring physicist Albert Einstein on a trip to Israel. “Einstein died before embarking on the planned media tour on behalf of Israel, but the letter he wrote with Eban’s help on [Eisenhower’s refusal to send aid to Israel] was released after he died. It was one of the last things Einstein ever wrote.” [Mosiac]
🗓️ Pin-Ups:The New York Post’s Doree Lewak spotlights the subjects of the “Nice Jewish Guys” 2021 wall calendar, including Mr. February, Howie Schaal, who said his appearance is “all about impressing one person — his mom.” [NYPost]
Around the Web
👩💼 Future Path: Friends and former colleagues of Ivanka Trump expect the first daughter to consider running for office after leaving the White House.
🧑💼 Ready to Serve: Walt Disney’s Bob Iger, who was considering a presidential run in 2020, told David Rubenstein that he would consider a role in the Biden administration if offered.
💰 Holding Tight: Gary Cohn, former president and chief operating officer at Goldman Sachs, is refusing to return $10 million in pay to the company over the 1MDB corruption scandal.
🔎 In the Works: Facebook’s new content oversight board has begun to review its first six cases, selected from the 20,000 incidents submitted by the public.
🖥️ Full Steam: After buying Slack for $27.7 billion, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is set to directly compete against Microsoft, a company with which he once negotiated.
👨💻 Startup Nation: Israeli startup Bizzabo, a platform to create and run virtual conferences, has raised $138 million in its latest round of financing.
🗳️ Deja Vu: The Israeli Knesset voted in favor of a new election in a preliminary vote last night, with the final approval expected next week, as last-minute negotiations continue.
🚢 Planning Ahead: The Israeli army welcomed its most advanced warship, the German-made vessel dubbed “Shield,” at the Haifa port yesterday.
🇨🇿 Czechs Out:The Czech Republic said yesterday it will add a “diplomatic presence” in Jerusalem next year, but maintain its embassy in Tel Aviv.
💡 Open Door:Israel is expected to open an official embassy in Manama, Bahrain, by the end of December, replacing its longtime covert diplomatic mission in the city. The Israeli government expects to bring in $220 million from economic trade with Bahrain next year.
💵 Closing the Gap: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees was able to pay its 30,000 workers last month only after a $20 million loan from the U.N.
🕵️ Charges:Iran has accused Kylie Moore-Gilbert — an academic freed in a prisoner exchange last week after two years in captivity — of working with a former Bahrain MP to spy for Israel.
⚖️ In Court:The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the village of Airmont, N.Y., in Rockland County, alleging that it discriminated against Orthodox Jewish residents.
🎥 Wonder Woman:Gal Gadot has been cast as the lead of a new international spy thriller titled “Heart of Stone.”
👩🎤 Hollywood: Israeli pop star Noa Kirel has signed on with Ari Emanuel’s William Morris Endeavor.
📚 Life Story: The new book Escape from the Ghettorecounts the story of a 13-year-old boy who killed a Nazi guard in the Lodz Ghetto and escaped to the U.K. under a secret identity.
🎞️ Holiday Viewing: The first-ever box set of 10 restored Yiddish-language films is on sale ahead of Hanukkah.
👩 Transition: Israeli journalist Tal Schneider is leaving Globes to become a political reporter at The Times of Israel and its Hebrew sister site, Zman Israel.
🕯️Remembering:Bruce Herschensohn, a longtime political commentator and former aide to Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, died at age 98. David Hackett, a professor and Holocaust historian, died at 80 of COVID-19 complications.
Pic of the Day
Earlier today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior cabinet ministers welcomed the first group of the remaining 2,000 new immigrants from Ethiopia that Israel has vowed to bring by the end of January as part of Operation “Tzur Yisrael,” at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Representative-elect to Congress (D-NC-6), she was the founding chair of Prizmah and a former chair of JFNA, Kathy Manning turns 64…
Howard Krizer turns 88… A leader of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, he was a close associate and the personal secretary to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Yehuda (“Yudel”) Krinsky turns 87… Founder of a successful wedding gown business and a lifestyle coach in Malibu, Sandy Stackler turns 83… 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winner for his book on Arabs and Jews in Israel, he was a long-serving foreign correspondent and Washington bureau chief for The New York Times, David K. Shipler turns 78… Member of the New York State Assembly since 1994, Jeffrey Dinowitz turns 66… Painter and art teacher, Heidi Praff turns 64… Miami-based criminal defense attorney whose clients have included O.J. Simpson and Charlie Sheen, Yale Galanter turns 64… Editorial page editor at USA Today, William (Bill) Sternberg turns 64… British publicist, music manager and former tabloid journalist, Rob Goldstone turns 60…
Member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beytenu party, a former managing director of the Israel Diamond Exchange, Eli Avidar turns 56… Member of the California State Assembly from the 43rd district since 2016, Laura Friedman turns 54… Malinda Wozniak Marcus turns 50… SVP of communications at NBC News, Alison “Ali” Weisberg Zelenko turns 49… Associate professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University, Joshua M. Karlip, Ph.D. turns 49… French journalist, author, television and radio personality, Marie Drucker turns 46… Comedian and actress, she discovered her Eritrean Jewish roots as an adult, Tiffany Haddish turns 41… Member of the New York City Council for the 33rd District since 2010, Stephen T. Levin turns 39… Managing partner of E:SIX Strategies, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Edelman turns 33… Professional tennis player with a current WTA ranking of 56, she won the gold medal in women’s singles at the 2005 Maccabiah Games, Sharon Fichman turns 30…