👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Georgians will cast their final votes today in a pair of Senate runoffs that will decide which party will hold control of the upper chamber. More below.
Saudi Arabia will reopen its borders and airspace to Qatar after a three-year rift between the Gulf nations. The move, which is expected to serve as a prelude to ending Qatari isolation in the Arab world, comes after months of heavy lobbying from U.S. officials, including Jared Kushner.
The 41st meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council is kicking off today in Saudi Arabia, with representatives of all six member states in attendance.
Israel intends to appoint Eitan Na’eh, a former ambassador to Turkey, as top envoy to the United Arab Emirates until a permanent ambassador is named.
Moderna announced that its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to Israel will arrive soon, following the Israeli Health Ministry’s approval of the shot. Israel is continuing to set records for its rapid vaccine distribution, raising concerns it will soon run out of doses.
GEORGIA ON EVERYONE’S MIND
The runaway Georgia runoffs
The wait to determine which party will control the Senate appears nearly over as voters in Georgia cast their final ballots today in the hotly contested races pitting two incumbent first-term Republicans against Democratic opponents who have never held public office. “Everyone expects this to be very close,” Alan Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory University in Atlanta, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “It’s probably going to be decided by one or two points at most.”
Trends: Since November 3, Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock have engaged in a war of attrition with Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, as hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising have poured into the state. While Democrats have historically underperformed against Republicans in Georgia runoffs, the unique circumstances of the races have put Ossoff and Warnock in rarefied positions. Still, it is the Republicans’ race to lose in a traditionally conservative state that has trended purple in recent years, but may not yet have reached a point at which it is ready to flip blue.
‘It’s not healthy’: More than 3 million early votes have already been cast, and most experts agree that turnout so far appears to favor Democrats. Though Republicans are known to vote on Election Day, some GOP strategists worry that the support may not be strong enough. Jay Williams, a GOP strategist who has worked for Loeffler and Perdue, told JI that low turnout among Republicans during the early voting period puts the party at a significant disadvantage. Williams added that President Donald Trump’s messaging, taking aim at Republican elected officials in Georgia, has also been counterproductive. “I think a lot of Republicans like me who are involved in this process are frustrated,” Williams said. “It’s not healthy.”
More optimistic: GOP State Treasurer Joseph Brannan is optimistic that Republicans will prevail, noting that the state party employed more than 1,000 paid staffers and sent tens of thousands of volunteer door-knockers across Georgia as it sought to improve its ground game. “I think the turnout’s going to be strong tomorrow from folks that want to cast their vote in person at the ballot box,” he said in a Monday evening phone interview, “and that will bring Kelly and David across the line.”
Calling it: It remains to be seen how quickly the elections results will be called. Experts gave varying answers, including tomorrow morning, Wednesday evening and as long as a week following the runoff. No one believed that the votes would all be tallied by tonight. Given the tensions over Trump’s efforts to challenge the November 3 results, it seems certain that Republicans will emulate the president, according to Fred Hicks, a Democratic strategist in Atlanta. “I expect lawsuits and a lot of debate over what happens with these absentee ballots and people who registered after November 3,” he said, predicting that there will probably be a manual vote recount if Ossoff and Warnock have the lead — a time-consuming process that could leave voters on edge for days.
Elsewhere: Rabbi Avi Weiss, founder of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, writes in The Times of Israelthat he must painfully call out Warnock for a series of his positions on Israel, noting that “it hurts to raise a voice of Jewish conscience against Rev. Warnock, [but] it is something I must do.” Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt penned an op-ed last month defending Warnock and raising concerns over Loeffler’s associations with QAnon conspiracy theorists, calling the Georgia senator an “enabler” of antisemitism.
ON THE HILL
Inside the 11th-hour passage of the bill elevating the U.S. antisemitism envoy
A bill elevating the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism to the rank of ambassador passed Congress on Thursday, nearly two years after it was first introduced, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod. Prior to its passage, the legislation appeared to stall in the Senate, raising concerns in the final days of the 116th Congress that legislators might have had to start over in the new Congress.
Stuck in the Senate: The House first passed the bill on Jan. 11, 2019, but despite broad bipartisan support, was bogged down with procedural issues in the Senate, leading some advocates both inside and outside Congress to believe the bill was going to die in the Senate. The crux of the dispute came down to whether the Senate should pass an amended version of the House bill or an identical bill that originated in the Senate.
Rosen to the rescue: Backers of the bill told JI that Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) was critical to clearing the roadblocks that stood in the way of the bill’s passage. “Rosen became incredibly engaged and helpful,” a Senate Republican aide familiar with the legislation told JI. Rosen told JI she was pleased to “build on my bipartisan record of working with colleagues to fight antisemitism by ensuring this critically important bill was brought to the floor and passed.”
House holdup: The Senate passed the bill on December 16, sending it back to a House focused on urgent debates over government funding and COVID-19 relief payments, as well as disputes between Republican and Democratic leadership. Rosen, along with the bill’s lead sponsors in the House, Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Brad Schneider (D-IL), and a range of outside advocacy organizations, stepped in to ensure the bill made it through the House just before the new Congressional session began on Sunday.
Shortlist: President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for the envoy spot is not likely to be announced in the immediate future, but the names said to be under consideration include former Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman, past envoy Ira Forman, Emory University professor and noted Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt, University of California, Berkeley professor Ethan Katz and ADL senior vice president of international affairs Sharon Nazarian. Nazarian confirmed she’s spoken to the Biden team and is submitting a formal application.
Where in the world is war brewing?
Veteran journalist David Andelman has hopped between 86 countries, dozens of disputed territories and his fair share of war zones. In his new book, A Red Line in the Sand: Diplomacy, Strategy, and the History of Wars That Might Still Happen, Andelman draws on his experiences to take a bird’s-eye view of the conflicts that are raging — and those that could spark at any moment — across the globe. He spoke to Jewish Insider‘s Amy Spiro about his latest book and his views on regional war — and peace.
Good and bad: In A Red Line in the Sand, which hits bookshelves today, Andelman argues that the proliferation of so-called “red lines” around the world have left people less safe and situations less stable. Red lines, he writes, “physical, diplomatic, military, all too often existential… have reached a toxic apex in numbers and virulence at this very moment in history.” But Andelman, who has worked over the years for Forbes, CBS, Bloomberg, The New York Times and others, acknowledges that red lines can be used effectively in international diplomacy. “I don’t necessarily think they’re a bad idea,” he told JI in a recent phone interview. “They can be very useful in fact, if they’re properly constructed, properly built and properly understood by those on both sides of the red line.”
On the brink: Asked to pick the one area of the world most at risk of spilling into all-out war, Andelman doesn’t hesitate: North Korea. “North Korea has a nuclear device already,” Andelman said. “Iran doesn’t. And this is the critical difference — and this is where I think the potentially more toxic moves could come.” But the situation in Iran, he added, “is the most active and interesting.” As President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, Andelman said, “you have forces within Iran… the Revolutionary Guards, and the more extremists among the mullahs, who really believe that this is the time for Iran really to move toward some kind of a nuclear device.”
Hands tied: Biden’s quest to reenter the Iran deal that Trump pulled out of in 2018 “is going to be difficult — there’s no doubt about that,” said Andelman. One major question, he added, is that “all of the different signatories effectively need to agree that this is going to continue to be enforced — or is it going to be broken up.” While Netanyahu has made clear he has his own set of red lines on Iran, Andelman still sees Israel’s hands as somewhat tied. “It’s hard to see how Netanyahu or any other Israeli leader could really go it alone in that respect,” he said. “Netanyahu needs the United States for military capabilities. It’s never going to launch any kind of an attack on Iran” without international backing, Andelman suggested.
Tentative peace: While Andelman praised some aspects of the recent Abraham Accords, he said he is “somewhat more skeptical” of their long-term efficacy, “because it requires a certain degree of restraint by Netanyahu… on settlements and that sort of thing.” And when it comes to Sudan’s status as a state sponsor of terror and the U.S. recognition of Western Sahara as under Moroccan sovereignty, “there’s this whole sort of very fragile foundation that this whole thing is built on, that I’m afraid could come apart.” That being said, “I hope the Abraham Accords work,” he added. “I would like to see all of the Middle East recognize Israel… those are red lines that need to come down, barriers between countries, between civilizations that have existed for a very long time for no good reason.”
🕯️ Saying Goodbye: Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and his wife, Sarah, penned a tribute to their son, Tommy, who died last week at age 25. The Raskins recounted Tommy’s childhood, his bar mitzvah, his activism, his battle with depression and his “perfect heart, a perfect soul, a riotously outrageous and relentless sense of humor, and a dazzling radiant mind.” [Medium]
🖼️ Time Capsule: In The New Yorker, Dexter Filkins explores the U.S. Army warehouse in Virginia’s Fort Belvoir, which still holds an extensive collection of Nazi propaganda and military art — including four watercolors by Hitler. Visiting the warehouse, writes Filkins, “was like prying open a time capsule from a very dark time.” [NewYorker]
✍️ Live in Hope: Eliot A. Cohen has penned an entreaty to all Americans in The Atlantic, urging them: “Don’t despair.” Despite a rough year, he writes, “if you can force yourself to take a longer view, and if you love America as one should — wisely, and therefore not too well — you have plenty of reason for a prudent hope.” [Atlantic]
Around the Web
🚨 Behind Bars: Israeli officials announced the arrest of a Palestinian suspect in last month’s terrorist murder of Jewish settler Esther Horgan.
✈️ All Aboard: Emirates airline is planning to begin direct Tel Aviv-Dubai flights next month.
🥩 Where’s the Beef?: Israel’s Aleph Farms is partnering with Mitsubishi to bring lab-grown meat to Japan.
📈 Looking Up: Israel’s central bank increased its growth forecast for 2021 and 2022 following the early success of its ongoing vaccination program.
🇬🇷 Big Deal: Israel and Greece have agreed to a massive $1.68 billion defense deal, in which Israel’s Elbit will set up a training school for the Greek Air Force.
👰 Tying the Knot: Israel recognized online marriage certificates from Utah of three Israeli couples, potentially opening a new avenue for couples married outside of religious ceremonies.
🍫 Sweet Deal: Food giant Mondelez is nearing a deal to purchase paleo chocolate maker Hu, founded by Jason H. Karp and siblings Jordan Brown and Jessica (Brown) Karp.
👋 Talk of the Town: Michael Hurwitz stepped down as the Queens deputy borough president a day after he was appointed, following the uncovering of a series of anti-Israel tweets.
🚑 Tragic: A 4-year-old boy was killed and a 6-year-old boy was critically injured after being hit by a van that had dropped them off outside a Brooklyn yeshiva yesterday.
📰 Media Watch: City & State New York was acquired by the Washington-based Government Executive Media Group, but will keep publisher Tom Allon in his role.
Professional poker player who won the 2010, 2012 and 2018 World Series of Poker Players Championships, he also has two World Poker Tour titles, Michael Mizrachi turns 40…
Former member of Knesset for Likud (1981-1999), the last three years of which he served as speaker of the Knesset, Dan Tichon turns 84… Sports journalist, Robert Lipsyte turns 83… NBA superfan who attends over one hundred basketball games courtside across the country each season, James F. Goldstein turns 81… Former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor, currently a special counsel at Ballard Spahr, Ed Rendell turns 77… Retired attorney from Latham & Watkins, Paul Meyer turns 77… San Diego-based attorney, she served in Congress from 1993 to 1995, Lynn Alice Schenk turns 76…
Former attorney general of the U.K., now co-managing partner and chair of the European and Asian litigation practice at Debevoise & Plimpton, Lord Peter Goldsmith turns 71… CEO of Legacy Interactive / Legacy Games and president of HitPoint Studios, Ariella Lehrer, Ph.D. turns 68… Founder and principal of DC-based Mager & Associates, Mimi Mager turns 67… Recently retired chairman of the Jewish National Fund, Daniel “Danny” Atar turns 63… Contributor to Fox News, John F. Solomon turns 53… Actress and television personality, Heather Paige Kent Dubrow turns 52…