👋 Good Tuesday morning!
President Joe Biden has been in office for close to a month, but has still not called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — something that has not gone unnoticed.
Former State Department official Aaron David Miller tweeted last week that “a clear message is being sent” noting that Netanyahu was [former President] Trump’s third call in office. “To quote Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore,” Miller added. Miller told JI last night, “Biden’s focus is domestic, domestic, domestic. He’s much more concerned rightly with the American public than with the Israelis. In fact, no call to Netanyahu — nearly four weeks into his presidency — reflects changing priorities. Israel will remain America’s closest Middle East ally.”
But Netanyahu told Israeli Channel 12’s Yonit Levi last night that he was not concerned: “He’ll call… We have had very strong friendly relations for nearly 40 years, dating from the time I came to Washington.”
The Washington Institute’s David Makovsky points out that Biden has not called any Middle Eastern leader. “If Jordan’s King Abdullah would have been called and Netanyahu hadn’t been called, they might say, ‘Oh, that looks like a snub to me.’ But that’s not what’s happened,” he said. “Maybe it just says that the Middle East is not the top priority at this moment in time.”
Makovsky added: “It’s a mistake to make the comparison to the start of the [Barack] Obama administration, where the president famously said, ‘I want some daylight with Israel.’ That’s not what this guy is about. I mean, Biden has been in the public eye for close to 50 years. And he’s the kind of leader that Israel has always liked, which is he’s a guy that talks from his kishkes.”
International law expert Eugene Kontorovich explained that the rift between Obama and the Israeli government was over policies, not personal behavior. “Biden’s policies will be judged independently of when he calls, or even if he decides to text.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan told Army Radio this morning that if the Biden administration returns to the 2015 Iran deal, “we will not be able to be part of such a process.”
U.S. and Israeli officials indicated that Iran was behind a recent foiled plot to target sites in Ethiopia and Sudan, including the UAE embassies in both countries.
Congress will establish an independent commission, in the mold of the 9/11 Commission, to investigate the January 6 Capitol riot, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last night.
Check out Jewish Insider’s ‘Jewish Nielsen’ report to see which webcasts people tuned into last week.
Josh Mandel goes all in for the Trump lane in Ohio’s Senate race
Former Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel has long had his eye on the U.S. Senate. The 43-year-old Republican made his first bid for the upper chamber in 2012 in a failed challenge against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). The following cycle, Mandel tried again but withdrew from the race citing family health concerns. Last week, Mandel made clear that he was going for the hat trick when he became the first Republican to enter the open-seat race to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). In an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel last week, Mandel discussed his campaign and his hopes that former President Donald Trump will run again in 2024.
Why he’s running: “I think we need a new generation of conservative leaders in Ohio and in Washington,” Mandel told JI. “Unfortunately, there is this cabal of Democrats and Republicans who sound the same, stand for nothing and are more interested in getting invited to cocktail parties than they are in defending the Constitution. And I believe that we need strong America-first senators who are willing to fight for the ideals of economic freedom, individual liberty and constitutional values.”
Not conceding: Mandel sidestepped a question from JI on whether he believed Trump had lost the election. “I believe that there definitely was fraud in this election, just like there is in every election,” he said. “And if I were a United States senator, I would have voted with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) in delaying the certification of the election to give time for an investigation to ensue.” Mandel said he hopes Trump “runs for reelection in 2024 — pardon me, I hope he runs for president in 2024. And once again, I’ll be a full-throated supporter behind his candidacy,” said Mandel, adding: “I’ve been a strong Trump supporter. I think what he’s done for America, and what he’s done for Israel, is unrivaled, and I’m proud to call him my president.”
Proud Zionist: “I’m raising my three kids to be proud Americans, proud Jews and proud Zionists. And I am very grateful for the support of evangelical Christians, Jews and others around the state and country who’ve been supporting me and my leadership advancing the U.S.-Israel relationship,” Mandel told JI. “One other thing I would say: I’m also proud to have many cousins who live throughout Judea and Samaria, and I believe that Jews have the biblical right to live, build and prosper in every corner of Judea, Samaria and the entirety of Israel.”
inside the impeachment
David Schoen describes dysfunction within Trump’s impeachment team
Despite winning former President Donald Trump an acquittal in his second impeachment trial on Saturday, Trump’s defense team was plagued by inconsistent internal communication and coordination, last-minute shake-ups and other management issues, according to attorney David Schoen — who, at least in theory, was the former president’s lead counsel. Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod spoke to Schoen about the obstacles the team faced and his clashes with Trump’s other lawyers.
Who’s in charge? While Schoen was brought on as Trump’s lead counsel, co-counsel Bruce Castor ultimately assumed command. “I’m not sure that message was communicated to him clearly enough, because he never seemed to quite understand that I was supposed to be the lead in the case,” Schoen said, adding that Castor assigned roles “based around giving him and his partner [attorney Michael Van Der Veen] leading speaking roles.” Schoen was, at one point, only set to speak on the first day of the trial, but Trump demanded he speak again, leaving the attorney to prepare his Friday speech only an hour before delivering it.
On the fly: Trump’s defense got off to a rocky start on Tuesday with a widely maligned speech by Castor. That speech was a “spur of the moment decision,” Schoen explained. “He jumped in and obviously it was like a filibuster. It was not a good presentation,” Schoen said. “I thought, ‘This guy’s career is going to disappear. I don’t know how he’s going to get up in the morning,’” he said, adding, “But he didn’t… He still thought he did a good job.”
Less than expected: The Senate voted to acquit Trump by a vote of 57-43 — a lower number of acquittal votes than Schoen had expected, which he blamed partly on the defense team’s performance during the question and answer session on Friday. “I was pretty confident based on discussions with the senators… that we would have something like 45 or 46 votes,” he said. “Before Shabbos, I heard like two of the Q&As. I didn’t think that our side answered the questions the way they should have been answered. That might have had some influence.” Schoen specifically cited Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who both voted to convict Trump after asking about when Trump became aware of the riot — which the defense did not directly address.
Viral moment: On the first day of the trial, Schoen went viral on Twitter for covering his head with his hand while taking swigs of water. The Orthodox Jewish attorney explained that he usually does not wear a yarmulke or drink water during trials, but was feeling thirsty due to a recent bout with COVID-19. “I was up there and I realized that I didn’t have my yarmulke on. So I was going to say a bracha, a blessing, before I drank. I wouldn’t say that without my yarmulke on. And I’m not used to eating or drinking without my yarmulke on,” Schoen said. “So the closest I could come to it was putting my hand over my head to still have a sense of God’s presence over this and sanctifying the drinking and all of that.” Schoen added that “seeing the posts online afterwards made me feel really awkward and kind of embarrassed.”
New York Jewish nonprofits hopeful pandemic exodus will reverse
Tough but intensely proud, New Yorkers tend to be obsessed with their heady but hard-to-live-in city. And for decades they have also been obsessed with their fellow New Yorkers departing the city. The leaving-New-York story resurfaced yet again during the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s at least partially true: New Yorkers with the means to find larger houses with more outdoor space are fleeing the city and relocating to places like suburban New Jersey and South Florida. Jewish communal executives told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutchthat they expect the trend to be short-lived, with New Yorkers returning to the city in the summer or whenever life regains some semblance of normalcy.
Sticking by: “People are stepping up and maintaining their support,” said Mark Medin, executive vice president for financial resource development at the UJA-Federation of New York. “People that have been longtime New York residents and longtime donors and leaders in UJA understand the gravity of the need in the community right now.” The surge in virtual programming has allowed Medin to continue engaging high-level donors even outside the city, via virtual meetings and briefings on UJA’s work responding to the increase in hunger, joblessness, and eviction fears. UJA had a record-setting fiscal year, but the organization alsohad to take tens of millions of dollars from its endowment to meet the needs brought on by the pandemic.
Real concern: If high-income donors leave the city for good, Medin recognizes his organization will be in trouble. “If there’s a significant exodus from New York City, that’s going to have a tremendous impact on the tax base of the city and the philanthropic organizations that rely so heavily on donations,” Medin explained. “It is incumbent upon New York-based organizations to innovate and think about how they stay connected to their donors while at the same time recognizing that this” — people leaving the city for good — “is a real concern,” he said.
Coming back: The Ramaz School, a modern Orthodox Jewish day school on the Upper East Side, saw a drop in enrollment this year, but nearly all the families that left have re-enrolled their children for the 2021-2022 school year. “A small number of our families have moved either temporarily or permanently to the Jersey Shore, Florida, or Long Island, but the majority of [them] have expressed they want to return as the COVID rates significantly diminish,” Jonathan Cannon, Ramaz’s head of school, told JI. Some donors whose children left stopped giving, but others have stood by Ramaz. “We are very grateful that a number of families who have moved out of New York have continued to support the school because they feel part of the Ramaz family and intend to return to the school next year,” he said.
Greener pastures: Some suburban areas just outside the city expect certain changes to be permanent. “The reason why people are leaving Manhattan to come to the New York City suburbs is all about space,” said Jason Shames, CEO and executive vice president at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. “No one wants to be in an elevator with a neighbor.” Besides, Shames pointed out, these are people who moved less than 10 miles from the city. “You’re still in the same metropolitan area. It’s not like you have to abandon the Yankees or Broadway.”
🔍 Spotlight: Politico’s Tim Alberta penned an in-depth profile of Nikki Haley, charting the former governor’s early disdain for Trump through her role as ambassador, her plans for 2024 and her views on Trump’s political future. “He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him,” she said. “And we can’t let that ever happen again.” [Politico]
👨💼 Tense Touchstone: New York Times White House correspondent Michael Crowley outlines how the appointment of Rob Malley as Biden’s special envoy on Iran set off an intense debate in Washington, “inflamed the sensitive politics of Israel” and “served as a test case for the influence of progressives” in the administration. [NYTimes]
👵 Reaching Out: In The Washington Post, Edward Serotta, director of the Centropa Jewish historical institute in Vienna, recounts the initiatives set up to help Austria’s Holocaust survivors amid the pandemic, including sending out books and chocolates and having comedians call to crack jokes. “Now in their 80s and 90s, these last survivors of the Holocaust have been shut away for another year. With the clock ticking, some will never again meet with families and friends.” [WashPost]
Around the Web
⛔ Rain Check: Israel’s Defense Ministry has canceled plans to participate in an upcoming defense conference in Abu Dhabi amid COVID travel restrictions.
👳♂️ Making it Official: Mohammed Mahmoud al Khaja has been appointed the United Arab Emirates’ first ambassador to Israel.
🤝 Working Together: Jewish communities in six Gulf states — Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE — have formed the first regional Jewish association.
📦 Vax Spat: The Palestinian Authority has accused Israel of blocking a transfer of COVID-19 vaccines to the Gaza Strip, while Israeli officials said the decision is under consideration.
🏅 Winner: Dr. Anthony Fauci has been awarded the $1 million Israeli Dan David Prize for “defending science.”
🗳️ Ballot Box: Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid is working once again with Mark Mellman, the pollster, campaign strategist and CEO of Democratic Majority for Israel.
🚀 Air Attack: The Syrian army claimed its air defenses had intercepted “Israeli aggression” over Damascus yesterday, in an area linked to Iranian forces.
🧑⚖️ Struck Down: A federal appeals court ruled that an Arkansas state law requiring state contractors to pledge not to boycott Israel is unconstitutional.
🛩️ High Flying: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem used a state airplane to travel to political events, including a Las Vegas Republican Jewish Coalition meeting, possibly violating state law.
↩️ Pivot: The Department of Homeland Security, which was founded to combat foreign terrorism in the wake of 9/11, is now pivoting to addressing homegrown terrorism.
💸 Pick Me: The race among Biden donors to secure top ambassadorial posts is underway, even though the president previously said donations would not factor into envoy picks.
✍️ Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Biden signed an executive order on Sunday reestablishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
🥩 Big Bite: Israeli startup Redefine Meat raised $29 million to pave the way for a global launch of its 3D-printed meat products.
⛳ Hole in One: Golfer Daniel Berger won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Sunday with two of the best swings of his career.
🕯️ Remembering: Investigative journalist James Ridgeway, who covered the neo-Nazi movement, died at 84. Mathematician and physicist Isadore Singer died at 96. Senior Israeli diplomat Gideon Meir, who most recently served as head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Public Diplomacy Division, died at 74. Ari Gold, a dance music artist and DJ, died at 47. Zachary Wohlman, a boxer known as Kid Yamaka, died at 32.
Gif of the Day
Iranian-born judoka Saeid Mollaei, who fled Iran in 2019 after being pressured to throw a competition in order to avoid competing against Israeli Sagi Muki, landed in Tel Aviv on Sunday to compete in an international judo competition while representing Mongolia. Mollaei was greeted at the airport by Israel Judo Association Chairman Moshe Fonti.
CEO of PR firm FinePoint, Meredith Fineman turns 34…
Activist investor, Carl Icahn turns 85… Founding national director of American Friends of Lubavitch and director of Chabad activities in Greater Philadelphia, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov turns 84… Professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, Michael Joseph Shapiro turns 81… Ecuador-born, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Maryland’s Howard County, Ralph Grunewald turns 65… Secretary-general of the World Council of Religious Leaders, Bawa Jain turns 64… Editor of the talent network at The Washington Post, Susan K. Levine turns 63… Co-founder and managing partner of Avenue Capital Group, Sonia Gardner turns 59… Co-director of Women for Israel’s Tomorrow, Nadia Matar turns 55… Past president of Hebrew Free Loan in Detroit and founder of Brilliant Detroit, Carolyn Glaser Bellinson turns 54… Head of communications for Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Media Group, Ty Trippet turns 50… Regional director of the Northeast region of Birthright Israel Foundation, Marissa Schaevitz Levey turns 37… U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) turns 34… Singer-songwriter and guitarist, Danielle Haim turns 32… Executive director of Council of Young Jewish Presidents, Zachary Schaffer… Amy Kurtz… Rachel Rubenstein… Eric McDonald…