👋 Good Thursday morning!
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has canceled a trip to the United Arab Emirates slated for next week, citing “the closing of the skies” due to COVID-19. The prime minister’s office indicated that the repeatedly delayed trip will be rescheduled for a later date.
Israel’s new Ambassador to the United States Gilad Erdan met with UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba at the UAE Embassy in Washington yesterday.
Matt Duss, a senior foreign policy advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), is rumored to be joining the Biden State Department, according to a report in Politico that notes the appointment has yet to be finalized.
Duss is an outspoken critic of traditional U.S. allies in the Middle East, including Israel, and is not shy about sharing his views of the Jewish state on Twitter. In November he tweeted: “Responding to the Fakrizadeh assassination by reaffirming the commitment to rejoin the JCPOA would be a good way to send the message that terrorism doesn’t work.” Last week, Duss lambasted American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris for comparing comments by Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Secretary of State Tony Blinken reportedly asked Special Envoy on Iran Rob Malley to “bring in people who are ‘more hawkish’ on Iran,” according to Axios. Paging Dennis Ross…
A letter to Blinken yesterdaysigned by 97 Republican members of Congress urged the secretary of state to abide by his commitment to keep the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
Last night on Clubhouse, Charlotte Broukhim moderated a conversation on Judaism for more than 800 listeners featuring social commentator Eric Weinstein, Conference of Presidents CEO William Daroff and Rabbi Adam Mintz.
As the app continues to gain popularity, especially in the Jewish community, Rabbi David Wolpe will be continuing his weekly Torah gathering on Clubhouse this evening.
On the hill
After marathon meeting, GOP sticks by Greene, Cheney
House Republicans rallied behind both Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) after a marathon meeting on Wednesday that highlighted the GOP’s internal divisions, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod from Capitol Hill.
On the agenda: Greene is facing a firestorm of controversy over recently surfaced comments claiming that the Rothschilds used laser beams to start wildfires in California; endorsing the execution of Democratic lawmakers; and accusing mass shooting survivors of being actors. Cheney, meanwhile, faced calls for her removal as GOP conference chair over her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump. Despite GOP support for Greene, Democrats are pushing ahead with a measure to remove the freshman congresswoman from her committee slots, which will come up for a full House vote today.
Saying sorry: During the GOP meeting, Greene gave a speech apologizing for her past conduct and statements and disavowed the QAnon conspiracy theory, according to multiple lawmakers who were in the room. “Marjorie Taylor Greene made an excellent speech,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) said. “She was contrite. And I think she brought a lot of people over to her side.” Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) echoed that sentiment: “People really heard someone who felt sorry for some of the things that she said, and was willing to move on and wants to do the best job she can do.”
Apology incoming? House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and other Republicans said they wanted Greene to apologize publicly for her past comments. “I think everybody should hear that [apology],” McCarthy said in a press conference following the meeting last night. “I think it’d be helpful if you could hear exactly what she told all of us.” Earlier Wednesday, Greene remained defiant on her Twitter feed, saying, “We owe them no apologies. We will never back down.” Greene has been aggressively fundraising off of Democratic attacks, and did not reply to questions following the meeting about making a public apology.
Keeping Cheney: Despite the Democratic furor over Greene’s conduct, Wednesday’s GOP meeting focused largely on the other item of business — whether to remove Cheney as conference chair. Cheney ultimately triumphed by a vote of 145-61, with one member voting present. “We really did have a terrific vote tonight and terrific time this evening, laying out what we’re going to do going forward, as well as making clear that we’re not going to be divided,” Cheney said. “It was a very resounding acknowledgment that we need to go forward together and that we need to go forward in a way that helps us beat back the really dangerous and negative [Democratic] policies.”
Torres says DHS needs to prioritize fighting white supremacist terrorism
Freshman Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) faces a mountain of complex issues to tackle as the new vice chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security. And as he takes up his new post, Torres told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod that he views domestic white supremacist terrorism as one of the most urgent challenges.
Wake-up call: “Americans have long been in denial about white supremacist violence as a form of domestic terrorism,” the freshman New York congressman said. “The insurrection against the Capitol was a wake-up call for the nation.” Torres suggested the Department of Homeland Security needs “a fundamental reordering of priorities” and alleged that the department had become “preoccupied” with immigration and radical Islamist terrorist violence under President Donald Trump’s administration.
Increasing funding: Torres described himself as a “strong supporter” of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), which has been a key tool for Jewish community institutions. He plans to push for another increase in NSGP funding during this year’s appropriations cycle. “We have to see to it that vulnerable communities have the tools to protect themselves from terror threats here at home,” he explained.
Happening today: At 10 a.m. ET, the House Committee on Homeland Security will hold its first full hearing of the 117th Congress, with testimony from Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.
SCOTUS unanimously tosses Holocaust restitution cases
Background: The first case, Germany v. Philipp, centered on the Guelph Treasure, or Welfenschatz, a collection of medieval art purchased from Jews by the Nazi regime in 1935. The heirs of the Jewish art dealers were seeking restitution from the German government for the artwork, which they claimed was sold under duress for below-market value. In the second case, Hungary v. Simon, 14 Holocaust survivors sought restitution from the government of Hungary and its state-owned railway company for property the government confiscated during World War II.
Court ruling: The court sided with both the German and Hungarian governments, vacating lower court decisions in favor of the two groups of Jewish survivors and descendants. U.S. law generally holds that foreign nations are not subject to lawsuits in U.S. courts for actions within their borders targeting their own citizens. The heirs had argued that the cases fell within an exception to U.S. law that bans “property taken in violation of international law.” The Supreme Court returned Germany v. Philipp to a lower court to examine an alternative argument, and instructed the appeals court in Hungary v. Simon to reconsider its ruling.
Reactions: Nicholas O’Donnell, a lawyer representing the heirs in Germany v. Phillip, told JI that his clients “are obviously disappointed in the Court’s ruling. We are considering our next steps for when the case returns to the District Court.” Jonathan Freiman, who represented the German government, told JI: “We’re pleased with the Supreme Court’s clear and unanimous ruling reversing the decisions below. Any claim over the Welfenschatz does not belong in a U.S. court.”
On the Hill: The Germany v. Philipp case had attracted significant attention from members of Congress, several of whom filed an amicus brief in the case siding with the heirs. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), who led the amicus brief, criticized the Court’s decision. “Congress has made it clear that Holocaust survivors can seek restitution in American courts,” Banks said. “The Supreme Court’s decision is a missed opportunity to give Jewish victims back a small part of what the Nazi regime stole from them.”
That time Pete Buttigieg spoke at an AIPAC college summit
The meeting place for future Democratic political stars? An AIPAC college conference, at least according to an anecdote relayed by California Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel in an upcoming episode of Jewish Insider’s Limited Liability Podcast.
Instant impression: Gabriel revealed that he first met now-Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg as college students when Buttigieg spoke at an AIPAC Saban Summit in 2002, when the former South Bend, Indiana mayor was an undergrad at Harvard. Gabriel, then student president at the University of California Berkeley, admitted he attended the conference without much prior knowledge of AIPAC, but recalled the instant impression Buttigieg made. “One of the students who spoke to us was the kid from Harvard who was working at the Institute of Politics,” Gabriel recalled, “I was kinda blown away.”
Subscribe to JI’s Limited Liability Podcast, hosted by Rich Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein, to hear the full story and more in this week’s episode, out tomorrow.
💻 Zooming In: In The Washington Post, Sydney Page profiles 98-year-old Trudy Berlin, the “Oprah” of the Adolph & Rose Levis Jewish Community Center in Boca Raton, whose long-running weekly discussion group — now on Zoom — has “been a lifeline” for many lonely senior citizens. [WashPost]
👨💼 On the Record: The Times of Israel’s Tal Schneider interviewed Peter Berkowitz, the former top policy advisor at the State Department under former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, about his bumpy tenure in the job and the decisions made on Iran, the Abraham Accords and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [ToI]
👩❤️👨 Insta Intimacy: New York Times reporter Sarah Lyall spotlights the unlikely social media stardom of Mandy Patinkin and his wife of 40 years, Kathryn Grody, including their November appearance in a Jewish Democratic Council of America event in which Patinkin sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in Yiddish as Grody cried. [NYTimes]
☎️ Playing Games: In The New Yorker, Bernard Avishai argues that President Joe Biden is “playing it cool” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of the March 23 election, while the question of Iran is likely to cause “frictions with Netanyahu’s government… well before the question of Palestine exacerbates them.” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
🤝 Friendly Visit: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has reportedly conditioned a visit from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Israel committing to a two-state solution.
🗳️ Election Ready: Netanyahu has hired Aaron Klein, a former Breitbart News Jerusalem bureau chief, as his campaign chief for the upcoming election.
💔 Not Joint: The Israeli-Arab political party the Joint List officially split ahead of the March 23 election, divided in part by one faction’s openness to working with Netanyahu.
💥 Sky Skirmish: Hezbollah fired at and missed an Israeli drone that was flying over South Lebanon yesterday.
📝 On the Agenda: Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has reportedly formed a team to coordinate talks with the Biden administration over payments to Palestinian prisoners.
💉 Two Shots: The PA has received 10,000 doses of the Sputnik V COVID vaccine, which arrived today at Ben-Gurion Airport from Russia.
⏪ Undo: Human rights groups and several senators are urging the Biden administration to reverse last-minute sanctions relief granted to Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler.
💼 New Gig: Former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) has joined the American Jewish Congress’s advisory board to counter white supremacist terrorism.
🏢 Setting Up Shop: Google co-founder Sergey Brin is opening a branch of his family office, Bayshore Global Management, in Singapore.
📈 Eye on IPOs: Israeli-founded startup Payoneer has reached a deal to go public by merging with a SPAC led by Betsy Cohen at a $3.3 billion valuation. Israeli electric vehicle startup REE Automotive has reached a deal to go public by merging with a SPAC from the 10X Capital Venture Acquisition Corp at a $3.6 billion valuation.
🌎 On the Map: Bloombergranked Israel in 7th place in its annual world innovation index.
🇩🇪 Upgrade: Germany announced yesterday it will legally recognize the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance as an international institution.
📚 Book Shelf: Robert Rotenberg juggles a busy schedule writing bestselling crime thrillers while also defending real-life clients as a criminal defense attorney in Toronto.
📘 Book Launch: Lauren Fox’s latest novel, Send For Me, is inspired by Holocaust-era letters written by her great-grandmother, excerpted throughout the book.
The first elected Jewish mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti turns 50…
Award-winning journalist and former State Department spokesman, Bernard Kalb turns 99… Actor best known for his work as Herman “Hesh” Rabkin on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” Jerry Adler turns 92… Stowe, Vt., resident, Barbara Gould Stern turns 87… Co-founder and chair of SAGE Publications, she was international president of B’nai B’rith Girls at the age of 19, Sara Miller McCune turns 80… Attorney and philanthropist, donor of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, Adrienne Arsht turns 79… Patrick B. Leek turns 68… Senior counsel at the global law firm Dentons, Evan Wolfson turns 64… Director of English language programming at Herzog College in Alon Shvut, Israel, Shalom Berger turns 61… Actress, best known for her award-winning role as Private Vasquez in the 1986 science fiction action film “Aliens,” Jenette Elise Goldstein turns 61… Member of the State Senate of Maryland since 2013, Brian J. Feldman turns 60… Former Mayor of Anchorage, Alaska, Ethan Avram Berkowitz turns 59…
Talent agent and executive chairman of Endeavor, Patrick Whitesell turns 56… Former kickboxing champion, ultra-distance cycling champion and IDF soldier, Leah Goldstein turns 52… President and COO of Blackstone Group and chairman of the board of Hilton Worldwide, Jonathan D. “Jon” Gray turns 51… Television writer and producer, Eddy Kitsis turns 50… Executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, Howard Libit turns 49… Senior fellow and director of the Middle East security program at the Center for a New American Security, Ilan Goldenberg turns 43… Author, psychotherapist and group fitness instructor, Rebecca Alexander turns 42… Economic policy reporter at The New York Times, Alan Rappeport turns 42… Manager in the NYC office of Monitor Deloitte, Justin Meservie turns 38… Senior legal project management specialist at Ropes & Gray, Abigail Dana Cable turns 33… Executive director of research and strategy at StandWithUs, Max Samarov turns 32… Professor emeritus at Northeast Forestry University in Harbin, China, Dan Ben-Canaan… Jan Winnick…