👋 Good Friday morning!
Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations told USA Today that the Biden administration has until February 21 to lift sanctions on Tehran if it wants to rejoin the nuclear agreement. A day earlier, Secretary of State Tony Blinken said Iran must return to compliance with the 2015 deal before Washington would reenter the agreement.
Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) — who is close with Blinken — was elected vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) will continue as the chair of the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism Committee. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) is also set to rejoin the committee.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz yesterday. According to the Defense Department, the pair agreed “to remain in close coordination on shared defense priorities” and Austin “reiterated the U.S. commitment to maintain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.”
President Biden has reportedly chosen Rob Malley to serve as special envoy on Iran. Read more below.
On Capitol Hill, calls for investigations and reform on Wall Street grew in response to the Gamestop trading frenzy, with outrage coming from both Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
Merriam-Webster added the term “Second Gentleman” to its dictionary, a nod to the first individual to hold the role, Doug Emhoff.
Check outJewish Insider’s ‘Jewish Nielsen’ report to see which webcasts people tuned into this week.
Mike Gallagher: GOP lost the Senate because of Trump’s election fraud claims
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) joined Jewish Insider’s Limited Liability Podcast this week to discuss President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, the Iran deal and the future of the Republican Party with hosts Jarrod Bernstein and Rich Goldberg.
Too far: Gallagher, who published an op-ed the morning of the Capitol riots calling on fellow Republicans not to go along with Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, explained why he nevertheless voted against impeachment. “Democrats are making this argument that ‘Okay, we have to remove the president because this man can’t be trusted with the nuclear codes or to be in office a day longer,’” he said. But now that Trump is no longer in office, he said, Democrats are arguing that Trump should be barred from returning to elected office, and “I think that’s something the American people can decide.”
Big tent: The Republican congressman said he was disturbed by the divisions within his party over impeachment, and believes it should be a “big tent party” and “these two sides attacking each other really troubles me.” The best case scenario, he said, is “we should have a very honest and robust debate about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the last four years, and we can build off that and improve and potentially start winning elections.” Gallagher said he believes Republicans lost control of the Senate in the Georgia runoffs because Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and David Perdue (R-GA) “weren’t able to make their most effective argument of, ‘we need to be a check against the Biden administration’… because they weren’t allowed to say Biden is indeed president.”
On Iran: “I think Biden’s foreign policy risks getting sucked into the same vacuum that Obama’s foreign policy did,” said Gallagher. Trying to put the Iran deal “back together with duct tape,” he suggested, will “anger our traditional allies in the region, Israel and the Sunni Arab Gulf states, and thereby screw up all the progress we’ve made with the Abraham Accords. And that may be sustainable for a short period of time. But it’s likely to suck him back into the region on terms that he does not want to be sucked back into the region.”
Don’t miss: Also on this week’s podcast, writer Abigail Pogrebin weighed in on the life and legacy of Larry King, and JI’s Matthew Kassel checked in with Jen Ellis, the woman who made Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) viral mittens, about finally getting to speak with the senator.
On the hill
Moderate Democrats stay mum on Malley pick as Iran envoy
Robert Malley has reportedly been chosen as the Biden administration’s envoy on Iran, confirming a report from Jewish Insider last week that the former Obama administration official was under consideration for the role. And while progressive Democrats rallied in support of Malley’s nomination over the past week, many moderate Senate Democrats chose to remain silent, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Track record: “Secretary Blinken is building a dedicated team, drawing from clear-eyed experts with a diversity of views. Leading that team as our special envoy for Iran will be Rob Malley, who brings to the position a track record of success negotiating constraints on Iran’s nuclear program,” a senior State Department official told Reuters. “The secretary is confident he and his team will be able to do that once again.”
Big fans: “You can’t do better than Rob Malley,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) told Jewish Insider on Wednesday. “He knows the region. He’s willing to think outside of the foreign policy consensus. He has a lot of friends on the Hill. Whatever Rob Malley is being considered for, I’d be supportive. I’ve relied on him a lot during my time in the Senate.”
Not so sure: Other Senate Democrats were more skeptical about the pick, one Democratic Senate staffer told JI, but were hesitant to speak out publicly. “The consensus is that the criticism isn’t totally off-base but is a little overblown, so folks aren’t going to pile on,” the staffer said. “At the same time, he’s disliked enough in pro-Israel circles that it isn’t worth it to make a nuanced case about the criticism. It’s not like anyone truly loves this guy, either. And at the end of the day, [President Joe] Biden and [Secretary of State Tony] Blinken are in charge and we trust them.” Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Mark Warner (D-VA) all declined to comment to JI on Wednesday and Thursday about Malley’s candidacy for the post.
Off the Hill: Outside Congress, progressive leaders and groups rallied around Malley following backlash over reports that he was likely to become the administration’s point person on Iran. Nearly 200 academics, foreign policy professionals, organizations and others released a letter of support. “Those who accuse Malley of sympathy for the Islamic Republic have no grasp of — or no interest in — true diplomacy, which requires a level-headed understanding of the other side’s motivations and knowledge that can only be acquired through dialogue,” the letter reads.
‘Jewish space lasers’ pushed by Marjorie Taylor Greene go viral
A report that freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) once spread a conspiracy theory that the 2018 wildfires in California were caused by space solar generators linked to “Rothschild Inc.” lit Twitter on fire last night, causing “Jewish space lasers” to trend on the platform.
Background: In the now-deleted Facebook post from November 2018, Greene speculated that “laser beam or light beams” from “space solar generators” linked to a vice chairman at “Rothschild Inc, international investment banking firm” were responsible for the wildfires that raged across California that year, the deadliest in its history — in order to finance a high-speed rail project in the state.
Pulling strings: “Now, you might wonder why, if an international cabal of Jewish bankers wanted to finance a rail project, they would go about it by using their space lasers to set a catastrophic blaze,” mockedJonathan Chait in a viral New York Magazine post. “Aren’t there easier ways to get your rail stations approved by the state legislature? If you can pull off a massive conspiracy like that and keep it quiet, and you have a space laser you can use to immolate basically any target on Earth, there have to be more direct profit-making opportunities than burning down trees in order to arbitrage the land value for a public-transit contract.”
Funny: Jewish Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) sarcastically tweeted, “We also use it to toast our bagels, Madge.”
Not so funny: Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) excoriated Greene’s comments and the discourse surrounding it. “A member of congress thinks there is a Jewish Laser beam to clear space or something for high speed rail and on Sunday TV pundits will ask democrats why they can’t find middle ground on Covid relief,” he tweeted. “All of these otherwise smart people will pretend not to know the answer.” CNN anchor Jake Tapper weighed in: “#JewishSpaceLasers may be funny unless you contemplate how many of these conspiracy theories are rooted in anti Semitism and racism and how many elected officials are helping to mainstream them because they frankly don’t care if it ends up getting anyone hurt or killed.”
Consequences: Earlier this week, CNN unearthed Facebook activity from Greene suggesting that prominent Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) should be executed. Nevertheless Greene was appointed to a seat on the Education Committee this week. “What could they be thinking?” Pelosi asked Thursday about the Republican leadership’s decision. “Or is thinking too generous a word for what they might be doing?” Yesterday, Joel Rubin, the executive director of the American Jewish Congress, called on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to “take this threat seriously & end her committee assignments until her record is reviewed. If not, then you’re condoning her views.”
🤳 Toxic Tech: The Wall Street Journal’s Akane Otani spoke toJaime Rogozinski, creator of the headline-grabbing WallStreetBets subreddit, where moderators peddle in racist and antisemitic tropes. “There were a handful of mods who were straight up white supremacists,” said Rogozinski, who is Jewish and married to a Mexican woman. “I have really thick skin and people can say whatever they want to me, but at some point there’s a moral standpoint.” [WSJ]
🇵🇸 New Era: The Economist argues that it is time for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to retire since “Palestinians deserve better” from their leadership ahead of elections slated for this year. “The stubborn men who rule the West Bank and Gaza often seem more concerned with preserving their own power than with improving their people’s lives.” [Economist]
🇮🇱 Simple Steps: Israeli author and philosopher Micah Goodman suggests in The Atlantic that Israeli moves to expand Palestinian autonomy can “shrink the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” even without a final-status solution, and work to “deliver a better future — not just for itself, but for the Palestinians and for its other neighbors.”
[Atlantic]🏖️ Living in Hope: In The Times, Karen Chernick pens a “postcard from Tel Aviv,” documenting how “resiliently optimistic” Israelis continue to go about their lives amid the COVID-19 restrictions, where “the hope is that vaccinations and herd immunity mean this will be our last lockdown.” [Times]
Around the Web
🖊️ Friendly Advice: A group of Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress, penned an open letter to the Biden administration and the new Congress laying out suggested priorities for addressing domestic antisemitism.
🕊️ Peace progress: U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said yesterday “there are reasons to hope” for progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, following a period where “we were completely locked down in a situation in which there was no progress visible.”
🇮🇱 No Worries: Israeli officials downplayed the significance of the Biden administration’s announcement that it would review weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates.
🇮🇱🇺🇸 Thin Ice: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vocal opposition to diplomacy with Iran risks damaging his relationship with Biden, argue Daniel Kurtzer, Aaron David Miller and Steven Simon in the Quincy Institute’s Responsible Statecraft publication.
😷 Diplomatic Dustup: UAE officials objected to a suggestion by Israeli chief epidemiologist Dr. Sharon Alrory-Preis that flights from Dubai to Tel Aviv resulted in COVID deaths in Israel.
🏢 Try, Try Again: WeWork is considering combining with a SPAC to go public a year after its infamous failed IPO attempt.
📱 Unblocked: Facebook’s oversight board overturned the company’s decision to remove a post incorrectly attributing a quote to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
🎨 Any Takers?: Miami mutual fund manager Bruce Berkowitz has given up on his efforts to build a museum in Miami to display two massive works of art he owns.
🌴 Tropical Torah: Musician Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Resort is soon set to open in New York’s Times Square, and will include a synagogue and a kosher kitchen on the premises.
📰 Up Next: Speculation over the replacement for retiring Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron has kicked into high gear.
🇦🇺 Down Under: Israeli drama series “Unchained,” starring “Beauty and the Baker” star Aviv Alush, has been picked up for distribution in Australia.
🥣 Sink or Float: In an essay for Los Angeles Magazine, writer Annabelle Gurwitch chronicled her frustrating experience at a virtual “Matzo Ball” speed dating event.
Wine of the Week
JI’s wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews the Yarden Merlot Allone Habashan 2016:
I have been spending more and more time in Napa Valley where kosher wine increasingly flourishes. The beauty of the newly pruned vines and the smell of the recently filled wine barrels take me to my happy place. Reminiscent of Napa are the magnificent vineyards of Allone Habashan in the Golan Heights, so I opened a bottle of the Yarden Merlot 2016 from there to celebrate the arrival of a Thursday night. This bottle is from the first ever harvest of this vineyard. The color is pretty, and the nose is mysterious. The wine opens with deep, dark chocolate, has red roses on the mid-palate and finishes with toasty vanilla. The vanilla comes from the predominantly new French oak where the juice sat for 18 months. Buy a lot of this wine. It can be inhaled now but will also age beautifully. Drink with cauliflower pizza and a kale pomegranate salad.
Singer and songwriter, he is a two-time gold medal winner in the Maccabiah Games (1985 and 1989) in fast pitch softball, Steve March-Tormé turns 68…
FRIDAY: Rabbi, mohel and public speaker, Rabbi Paysach Krohn turns 76… President of Libitzky Property Companies, Moses S. Libitzky turns 74… Regional director in the Houston office of the American Jewish Committee, Randall Czarlinsky turns 67… Louisiana resident, Jerry Keller turns 62… Former executive director of Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Larry Greenfield turns 59… Executive director of the Westchester Jewish Council, Elliot Forchheimer turns 59… Senior writer for JCCs of North America, a.k.a. Jane the Writer, Jane E. Herman turns 58… Actress known for her role as Amy MacDougall-Barone on the TV sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Monica Horan turns 58… Physician and an author of three New York Times best-selling books, he is a professor of medicine and engineering at USC, as well as a CBS News contributor, Dr. David Agus turns 56…
Former speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Paul Ryan turns 51… Chief customer officer at Mobilize.io, he is the founder of multiple tech firms, Sam Lawrence turns 51… VP of government relations and public policy operations at the American Hospital Association, Robyn Cooke Bash turns 49… Writer and occasional Bollywood film actor, he is known for his writing of the popular Jewish children’s comic book series Mendy and the Golem, Matt Brandsteinturns 49… Senior director and global head of the NYC-based Tembo Group, Denielle Sachs turns 44… Israeli actress, model and television host, Yael Bar Zohar turns 41… Director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the US, Laura Rosenberger turns 41… Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, Yasha Moz turns 36… Swimmer for Israel at the 2016 Summer Olympics, she has won 17 medals including 12 gold at the Maccabiah Games, Andrea (Andi) Murez turns 29… MCIT candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, Martha Baumgarten…
SATURDAY: Chairman of The Cordish Companies, David S. Cordishturns 81… Artist, she paints brightly colored Biblical narratives based upon her Torah study, Barbara “Willy” Mendes turns 73… Teacher and national community leader, Judith Friedman Rosen turns 69… Upton, Wyoming resident, Heather Graf turns 67… AVP of corporate outreach and development at the Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation in New Hyde Park, N.Y., Linda Scacco turns 67… CEO of Jewish National Fund, Russell F. Robinson turns 65… Regional representative of the U.S. Department of Labor, he was a member of the California State Senate, Jeffrey Earle Stone turns 65… Philadelphia area psychologist, Dr. Rachel Ginzberg turns 63… Managing partner of lobbying and law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Richard B. Benenson turns 53… Rabbi, spokesman and director of public relations for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Zalman Shmotkinturns 52… Associate professor in the electrical engineering department at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Guy Gilboa turns 50…
Publicist, manager and socialite, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Grubman turns 50… Park City, Utah, resident, Bari Nan Cohen Rothchild turns 48… Elected in 2018 as council member at-large for Montgomery County, Maryland, Evan M. Glass turns 44… Gisele Rogers turns 43… Executive director of Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Joshua M. Kram turns 42… Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2015, Lee Zeldin turns 41… White House correspondent for CBS Radio News, Steven Portnoy turns 40… Israeli actor, director, writer and television presenter, Michael Aloniturns 37… CEO at Harvesting Media, Eli Langer turns 35… Media professional and communications strategist, Alyona Minkovski turns 35… Member of the Connecticut House of Representatives since 2019, he is the son of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Matthew S. Blumenthal turns 35… Strategic advisor at School Mint, Eric Scott Lavin turns 34… Senior consultant in the tech sector for Deloitte Israel, Max Delahanty turns 32… Professional ice hockey defenseman, he played on Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Jonathon Blumturns 32… Associate at Blue Wolf Capital Partners, Jared Isensteinturns 29… Professional ice hockey forward, Chelsey Goldberg turns 28… Administrative assistant at AIPAC, Alexa Smith…
SUNDAY: Cardiologist and the co-inventor of the automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator, Morton M. Mower, M.D. turns 88… Scion of a leading rabbinic family in pre-WW2 Poland, former Assistant U.S. Solicitor General, now a private attorney with an active Supreme Court practice focused on religious liberty issues, Nathan Lewin turns 85… Classical music composer as well as acclaimed movie score composer, Philip Glass turns 84… Associate professor emeritus of Talmud and rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Mayer Elya Rabinowitz turns 82… Corporate strategist, she is the chairperson of global management consultancy Bain & Company, Orit Gadieshturns 70… Founder of social change organizations in Israel to promote peace, he was chief rabbi of Norway while also serving as a member of Knesset, Michael Melchior turns 67… Founder and CEO of MWWPR, Michael W. Kempner turns 63… Co-founder, chairman and CEO of Meridian Capital Group, Ralph Herzka turns 59…
Fourth-generation real estate developer, he is a founding partner of Redbrick LMD, Louis Myerberg Dubin turns 58… Classical cellist, born in Hadera, Israel, Ofra Harnoy turns 56… Host of NPR’s news quiz “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!,” playwright, screenwriter, actor and marathon runner, Peter Sagal turns 56… Mayor of Efrat and former chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council, Oded Revivi turns 52… CEO of City Cast, he was previously CEO of Atlas Obscura and Slate, David Plotz turns 51… Security technology executive at Affiliated Monitoring, Daniel J. Oppenheim turns 45… Managing director of BerlinRosen’s New York office, Michael Rabinowitz-Gold turns 43… VP of sports insights and measurement at NBC Universal Media, Matthew Gottliebturns 38… Film producer and founder of Annapurna Pictures, Megan Ellison turns 35… Singer, who won Israel’s Kokhav Nolad (A Star is Born) song contest in 2008, Israel Bar-On turns 32… Director of ecosystem engagement at MassChallenge, Clara Scheinmann turns 30… J.D. candidate in the Harvard Law School class of 2022, Eli Nachmany turns 25… Director at NYC’s 25madison and interim head of revenue and strategy at Limelight, Grant Silow…