👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s expected trip to the United Arab Emirates next week — his first since the Abraham Accords — has been slashed from three days to just three hours amid the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown and travel ban.
The Senate is expected to vote today on the confirmations of Alejandro Mayorkas and Pete Buttigieg to head the Departments of Homeland Security and Transportation, respectively.
Deputy Secretary of Defense-designate Kathleen Hicks will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning for a confirmation hearing.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) was named chair of the House Intelligence and Counterterrorism Subcommittee, succeeding former Rep. Max Rose (D-NY).
House Democratic leaders are taking steps to punish Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) over her extensive history of controversial comments and antisemitic conspiracy theories. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) reportedly gave Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) 72 hours to remove Greene from her committee assignments. The House Rules Committee will meet tomorrow to discuss a resolution to boot Greene from the House Education and Labor Committee and Budget Committees.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) rebuked Greene yesterday, without naming the freshman congresswoman, for spreading “loony lies” that are a “cancer for the Republican Party and our country.”
The No Excuses PAC is reportedly kicking off a search for progressive primary challengers to moderate Democrats Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
Can Gideon Sa’ar unseat Netanyahu?
When Israelis head to the polls next month for the fourth time in just two years, there will be at least one new party on the ballot — headed by a very familiar name in national politics. Gideon Sa’ar, a longtime Israeli politician and former ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left Likud last year to launch his own party, New Hope, and challenge Netanyahu for the premiership. In a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro, Sa’ar said that, if elected prime minister, he will build a strong relationship with President Joe Biden and with members of Congress from both parties, and restore bipartisan ties following Netanyahu’s close alignment with former President Donald Trump.
Direct dialogue: “I am sure I will know how to promote a direct, sincere and effective dialogue with President Biden and the Biden administration,” Sa’ar told JI in an interview last week. “I intend to promote policy that will restore the bipartisan principle with regards to our position in the U.S., and it will be important for me to build good relationships with Democrats and Republicans alike.” Without directly criticizing Netanyahu, Sa’ar expressed confidence that he will be able to repair relationships with not only the Democrat-controlled White House, but also Democratic lawmakers in the Senate and the House. “It is necessary for us to work with the two political parties and their representatives, and also with all the segments of the civil society in the United States.”
On Iran: Addressing the looming showdown over the Iran nuclear deal, Sa’ar adopted a more conciliatory tone than Netanyahu has expressed — though he has also stated his own opposition to the U.S. reentering the deal. “I think there is a consensus in Israel — and not only Israel, I think it is a regional consensus in the Middle East — that Iran shouldn’t have nuclear weapons,” he said. “And basically the United States of America shares the same approach. So we have a common goal, we have a common objective, and we should work together in order to promote policies that will serve this objective.”
Basic rights: The former minister said he welcomed the Abraham Accords and the signing of normalization deals with Arab countries, but warned that he would not pay the price of limiting settlement activity in order to achieve further agreements. “We shouldn’t pay with our basic right to live in our ancient homeland in order to achieve these treaties with different countries with no real conflict between them and Israel,” he continued. “And we have proof for that — this agreement didn’t touch those issues,” he said, drawing a distinction between suspending annexation and freezing settlement activity. “So I don’t think it is needed. I don’t think it is acceptable.”
Jewish unity: Sa’ar told JI that, regardless of politics, he will work to build strong ties with Diaspora Jewry. “The most important thing for me is to say that I see all Jews in America and worldwide as our brothers,” he said. “I believe in the unity of the Jewish people as a value and also as strategic strength for the Jewish state. And I will work hard in order to have a good dialogue and a good relationship with all Jews from different segments in American society.” Asked about the plan to expand the area for non-Orthodox prayer at the Kotel, which was shelved in 2017, Sa’ar said only: “I will take care of that issue very carefully, and I don’t want to say anything before I will promote this dialogue and get into this issue very seriously.”
Marty Baron winds down
Marty Baron, the executive editor of The Washington Post, has spent most of his decades-long career hunkered down in newsrooms. So it was bittersweet when, last week, he announced that he would be retiring on February 28. He delivered the news in a staff-wide memo from home — and it is unlikely he will get the chance for an in-person farewell before he steps down. “It’s unfortunate,” Baron told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in his characteristically unflappable manner. “There are a lot of unfortunate aspects of this pandemic. That’s probably not the most unfortunate aspect of it. The fact that we haven’t been able to connect with people personally for a year now is a huge issue, and I wish we could. That said, it is what it is.”
Time for a change: If Baron sounded unsentimental, it wouldn’t have been the first time he has given that impression. The 66-year-old newspaperman — portrayed by Liev Schreiber in “Spotlight,” the Oscar-winning movie about The Boston Globe’s earth-shattering investigation of a sexual abuse cover-up within the Catholic Church — isn’t known for workplace pleasantries. But he has earned a reputation as one of the most incisive editors of the 21st century thanks to his nearly total devotion to the daily act of journalism. At a certain point, however, Baron began to feel as if his inner cogs were getting worn out. “Largely every minute you have to be on duty,” said Baron, “and at some point, you want more personal time and personal liberty.”
Transformative run: During eight years at the Post, Baron helped transform a foundering regional paper into a thriving national news outlet that is now widely viewed as a primary competitor of The New York Times. Though he had financial help from billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who has owned the Post since 2013, Baron insists that Bezos never interfered with the editorial process. “He doesn’t suggest stories, he doesn’t suppress stories, he doesn’t criticize stories, he doesn’t critique stories,” Baron told JI. “He doesn’t get involved in the day-to-day journalism that we practice.”
Outsider status: Baron, the Jewish son of Israeli immigrants, was regarded as an outsider when he arrived in Boston at the dawn of the new millennium. “I think that the fact that I was the first Jewish editor of The Boston Globe just reinforced the idea that I was an outsider,” he said, noting that he never experienced any direct acts of antisemitism. His experience in D.C. has been different. “I have received quite a few nasty emails and things like that from people who have said antisemitic things,” Baron told JI. “In the current environment, I think people have felt empowered to say those kinds of things, and it’s brought a lot of people out of the woodwork. It’s not an everyday occurrence, but it’s not such an infrequent occurrence that I would dismiss it. There’s more of that these days.”
Hope for journalism? Baron is optimistic that his trade will survive in one form or another as he prepares to dismount from a storied career that began in the 1970s. “But I’m not Pollyannaish about it,” he said, adding that local newspapers are in a parlous state. “They face a much more difficult situation.” For now, though, Baron is more focused on his day job, at least for the next month. A successor has not been named, but whoever takes over will no doubt benefit from a well-oiled vehicle. Baron hasn’t decided what he’ll do with himself the day after he retires. “I don’t know. Relax. Sleep. I’m not sure,” he said. “But I’m not going to spend all day on the computer.”
On the hill
Manning compares Capitol Riot experience to running from Gazan rockets
Freshman Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), a former chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, says her time with the organization has served her well on Capitol Hill, but in an unexpected way: The experience of fleeing from a Gazan rocket attack in Israel while on a JFNA trip prepared her to flee from the House gallery during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the congresswoman said Monday at JFNA event featuring nine freshman members of Congress.
Flashback: “Many of my colleagues were panicked, with good reason,” Manning said during the virtual event. “But as my heart started to race, I thought to myself, ‘I’ve been through much worse. I’ve had to run to bomb shelters in Sderot with sirens blaring and rockets overhead coming in from Gaza.’” Manning was inside the House gallery, a balcony with spectator seating that overlooks the House floor, with several dozen other members of Congress when rioters breached the building last month and attempted to access both the gallery and the House floor.
Looking abroad: Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA), who recently joined the House Foreign Affairs Committee, discussed the need for bipartisan support for Israel and said she wants to see the U.S.’s position as a credible negotiator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict restored. “It will be important for us to show that we can look ahead and really think about what the United States can do to help push for peace, push for a two-state solution, that we can become the trusted mediator again,” Jacobs said. “A lot of that has been eroded by the last four years, but I’m confident that the Biden administration is going to be doing everything they can to really be able to move us forward and push us closer to a two-state solution that I think we have a very short window to be able to do.”
Community security: Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), whose district in the Boston suburbs has a significant Jewish population, laid out the measures he believes are necessary to protect Jewish institutions. The Massachusetts congressman called for stricter firearms regulations, and said the Jewish community should stand with the Black and Latino communities, which have also been targeted by right wing extremists. “If we’re not standing up for African Americans and Latinos, we’re not standing up for Jews either,” Auchincloss said.
☢️ New Deal: In Foreign Policy, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) proclaims that Congress “will make it tough for Biden on Iran,” and lays out his own suggestions for approaching the 2015 nuclear deal. “The Biden administration has an opportunity to build bipartisan congressional support for a truly comprehensive, inclusive, and permanent diplomatic resolution. Biden can avoid repeating the same mistakes that were made when he was vice president.” [FP]
🤵♂️ New Guy: Politico’s Nahal Toosi reports that Secretary of State Tony Blinken has received a “warm welcome” at the State Department — so far. “Blinken already has taken steps to signal his confidence in the foreign and civil service officers who now report to him,” says Toosi, but “it could be a short honeymoon for Blinken,” as questions swirl over political appointees. [Politico]
💗 Hearts and Minds: The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf interviews activist and entrepreneur Chloe Valdary about “Theory of Enchantment,” her Brooklyn-based diversity training company. “Once you understand that there’s a whole lot of baggage and complexity behind the facades that we project, you start to look for the depth of things, gain awareness of your own depth, and see the depth in others.” [Atlantic]
Around the Web
🤝 You First: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested to CNN yesterday that the EU could “synchronize” how the U.S. and Iran move toward rejoining the nuclear deal.
⏰ Ticking Clock: Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said today that Iran could be about six months away from producing enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon.
🛩️ Done Deal: UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba said yesterday he is “confident” the Biden administration will ultimately approve the sale of F-35 jets, despite the current review.
☎️ On the Line: A Palestinian Authority official spoke to Biden administration official Hady Amr yesterday, the first public contact between Palestinians and the White House in three years.
🇽🇰🇮🇱 New Friends: Kosovo vowed to open an embassy in Jerusalem during a ceremony yesterday that formalized diplomatic ties between Israel and the Balkan nation.
🛸 Bot Down: Hezbollah claimed credit yesterday for downing an Israeli drone in Lebanon, but the IDF stated that the device fell near the border between the countries.
🗳️ No Go: Former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni announced yesterday she will not run in Israel’s upcoming national election after months of rumors. Blue and White Diaspora Minister Omer Yankelevitch said today she will not run for reelection.
👨💼 In the Running: The Biden administration is reportedly considering naming Rahm Emanuel as ambassador to China or Japan.
🔒 No Entry: Activists blocked the entrance and chained the gates to an Elbit factory in Manchester, England, yesterday to protest the Israeli arms company.
😷 High Rates: A new study published by The Financial Times reveals that two-thirds of ultra-Orthodox Jews in London contracted COVID-19 — nine times the national average.
🎙 Podcast Playback: On the “Post Corona” podcast, Dan Senor interviews former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb who says of Israel: “I suspect some of the best data…is going to come out of Israel because of the way… they’ve vaccinated their population, which has been all at once, and second the way… they’re trying to answer these questions in a longitudinal fashion… From that kind of data you’re going to be able to draw firmer conclusions.”
📈 Startup Nation: Israel-based car data software start-up Otonomo will go public via a SPAC, with a valuation of $1.4 billion.
💻 Unwanted Guests: A virtual meeting of Pennsylvania State University’s Black Caucus was disrupted by a flood of racist and antisemitic messages.
📵 Bad Signal: The Federal Communications Commission fined a white supremacist in Montana $9.9 million for making thousands of robocalls targeting Black and Jewish politicians.
👫🏿 Joining Forces: More than 170 Black and Jewish entertainment industry leaders launched the Black-Jewish Entertainment Alliance to counter racism and antisemitism.
⛏️ Relic Row: Polish Jews voiced anger over claims that an Israeli institute secretly took possession of several sets of tefillin found hidden in the former Warsaw Ghetto.
💃 Fashion Friends: Israeli model Yael Shelbia appeared on the cover of an Emirati magazine and Dubai-based model Chanel Ayan graced the cover of an Israeli magazine in a fashion collaboration.
💼 Transitions: Pearl Gabel, the digital director for the state of New Jersey, is joining Kivvit as its director of brand strategy. Solly Hess has been named the Orthodox Union’s chief development officer for Southern NCSY. Former City Hall press secretary Freddi Goldstein has been hired by the city’s largest municipal workers union.
🕯️ Remembering: Teresa Żabińska-Zawadzki, the daughter of the directors of the Warsaw Zoo who hid Jews during World War II, died at 77. Dustin Diamond, an actor best known for his role as Screech on the hit show “Saved by the Bell,” died of lung cancer at 44.
Gif of the Day
Israeli singer Eden Ben-Zaken, accompanied instrumentally by Idan Raichel, released a new single, “Mitga’aga’at Ot’cha,” (I Miss You).
Author and host of the Food Network program “Barefoot Contessa,” and a former OMB staffer for Presidents Ford and Carter, Ina Rosenberg Garten turns 73…
Chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp and Expedia, Barry Diller turns 79… Former mayor and city councilman of Irvine, Calif., Larry Agran turns 76… Actor, comedian and singer, Brent Spiner turns 72… Journalist and author, Michael Zelig Castleman turns 71… U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) turns 69… Washington Secrets columnist at the Washington Examiner, Paul Bedard turns 64… Science fiction publisher and author, Selina A. Rosen turns 61… Rabbi at the Pacific Jewish Center (the Shul On The Beach) in Venice, Calif., he is also a practicing attorney, Shalom Rubanowitz turns 55… Sportscaster, Kenny Albert turns 53… Actress and screenwriter, Jennifer Westfeldt turns 51… Tony Award-winning actress, Marissa Jaret Winokur turns 48… Jerusalem-born head coach for the New Zealand Breakers of the Australian National Basketball League, Dan Shamir turns 46… Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Mayer Hawthorne turns 42… Assistant professor at Clemson University, Rebecca Shimoni Stoil, Ph.D. turns 41… Engagement editor for Government Executive Media Group, Ross Gianfortune turns 40… Political commentator, David Pakman turns 37… Joe Biden’s Jewish engagement director, Aaron Keyak turns 36… Actress and musician, she has appeared in “Mad Men,” “United States of Tara” and as Shoshanna Shapiro on the HBO original series “Girls,” Zosia Mamet turns 33Team Israel’s baseball catcher, he is a minor league coach in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, Nick Rickles turns 31… Avi Katz…