👋 Good Thursday morning!
Officials in the United Arab Emirates made it clear yesterday that they have no interest in being used as a political prop by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just days before Tuesday’s national election.
After reports yesterday that Netanyahu was attempting to once again visit the UAE a few days before Israel’s March 23 vote, former UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash tweeted: “The UAE will not be a part in any internal electioneering in Israel, now or ever.”
And UAE Industry and Technology Minister Sultan Al Jaber emphasized yesterday that a $10 billion investment fund in Israel — touted by Netanyahu — is “commercially driven and not politically associated.”
Now the UAE has also reportedly suspended preparations for a U.S.-Israel-UAE summit involving Sudan that is rumored to be in the works for April in Abu Dhabi over concerns that Netanyahu will tout it ahead of the election.
In an interview with Al-Arabiya News, deposed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, who currently lives in the UAE and is a senior advisor to UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, hinted that he’ll likely challenge Mahmoud Abbas in the July elections for the PA presidency.
A leaked State Department draft memo lays out a framework for the Biden administration to “reset” relations with the Palestinians, suggesting pushback against both Israeli settlement activities and Palestinian Authority payments to imprisoned terrorists.
A U.S. intelligence community report released yesterday warns that domestic violent extremists will “almost certainly” attempt to carry out violent attacks in the U.S. this year.
The Senate confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai yesterday by a vote of 98 to 0, the first unanimous vote for a Biden nominee. The Senate will vote today on Xavier Becerra’s nomination as secretary of Health and Human Services.
Terry ‘The Macher’ McAuliffe attempts a return to Richmond
In the first major election in the Biden era, Virginians will decide whether they want to continue riding the “blue wave” that has defined the state’s politics since 2017 — or whether Democratic gains in the state might have a short shelf life. The state’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, taking place in June, features the most diverse set of candidates in Virginia’s history. Yet the leading contender is Terry McAuliffe, who served as governor once before and has been a Democratic Party fixture since the Clinton administration. In an interview with Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch, McAuliffe attempted to make the case that he is Virginia’s best bet.
Trust the numbers: “We have the biggest, broadest coalition of anybody,” McAuliffe told JI. “So I would say, yeah, we’re getting people who are actually excited.” He cited the progressive priorities that he backed during his previous term as governor from 2014 to 2018, including his support for criminal justice reforms and reproductive rights. But perhaps McAuliffe’s strongest case is pure electoral math: “I’m the only person in 44 years who’s broken the horrible curse [that] whoever wins the White House, the other party wins the governor’s mansion,” he said. In early polling, McAuliffe is running far ahead of the other candidates, though half of voters remain undecided.
The macher: The relatively moderate McAuliffe, who has been given the Yiddish nickname “The Macher” for his loaded political rolodex, is likely to face pushback in the historic field amid some Democrats’ appetite for candidates who reflect the party’s diverse base. If he clinches the nomination, winning the governor’s mansion is far from a done deal for Democrats. “Anyone who thinks the Virginia governor’s race will be easy for Democrats hasn’t studied their history,” said Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist who grew up in Richmond’s Jewish community and began his career in Virginia politics. Put another way: “It looks like it’s McAuliffe’s race to lose right now,” said Quentin Kidd, dean of the College of Social Sciences at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va.
Blue (Jew) wave: One of McAuliffe’s closest allies in the Jewish community is Rabbi Jack Moline, rabbi emeritus at Alexandria’s Agudas Achim Congregation and president of the Interfaith Alliance. Moline told JI that “it isn’t so much that minds are changing, but concentrations of voters are,” noting the influx of people to more liberal parts of the state. One piece of that demographic change has been a recent increase in the Old Dominion’s Jewish population, from approximately 98,000 in 2010 to 150,000 in 2019. McAuliffe touted his pro-Israel bona fides to JI: “I tried to foster that as governor, a strong relationship between Israel and Virginia,” said McAuliffe, who has a daughter who lives in Israel and works for the Israeli news company i24.
Elsewhere: At a Virginia gubernatorial debate Tuesday night — in which McAuliffe did not participate — the four other Democrats running for Virginia’s top office said they would not take any government action against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Virginia’s General Assembly passed legislation condemning the BDS movement in 2016, though the resolution did not criminalize the movement or its supporters.
Yesh Atid’s Karine Elharrar is running on a ‘sanity’ platform
On the eve of Israel’s fourth election in two years — and her sixth since entering politics less than a decade ago — Yesh Atid MK Karine Elharrar believes Israel is ready for a change. “People are tired. They don’t really want to hear from politicians,” Elharrar told Jewish Insider‘s Amy Spiro in a recent interview. “And I can really relate to that, and I understand it, because people are tired of [broken] promises.”
Keeping the faith: One of the most painful broken promises, she notes, is the one that led to the dissolution of the union between centrist parties Yesh Atid and Blue and White, which had withstood the past three elections. When Blue and White leader Benny Gantz entered the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year — despite repeated vows that he would not — the faction split, and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid remained in the opposition. “Hopefully this time, after the last election and the fact that we didn’t break our promise, I hope that this time the public will put its faith in us,” Elharrar said, “and we can really succeed in our mission.”
Seeking sanity: Elharrar’s hope, however, is still tinged with concerns that the March 23 vote will lead to yet another coalition deadlock — and a potential fifth election. “Netanyahu, his main goal is ongoing elections, so he won’t have to face all his legal business,” she claimed. “Yesh Atid is all-in for forming a government. And we’re not obsessed that Yair Lapid will be the prime minister. I personally think he’s the right man to do so. He has all the skills, all the qualifications. But what the State of Israel really needs right now is sanity and a functioning government that will take care of all the problems that we are facing.”
Disability advocate: Elharrar, 43, has been with Yesh Atid since the party’s launch in 2012 and an MK since it first entered the Knesset in February 2013. The lawmaker, who has muscular dystrophy, uses a wheelchair. Both before and during her time in the Knesset, she has distinguished herself in fighting for the rights of those with disabilities in Israel. The battle today, she believes, is in implementing and enforcing existing legislation. “The fact is that Israel is not yet accessible, but it’s not because we don’t have the legislation. It’s because the implementation is really bad,” she said. Where more work needs to be done, she said, is in government payments to those who need financial assistance. “We still have a long way to go,” she said. “We’re working on that; it’s improving but in baby steps.”
Relations reset: Elharrar said she believes a reset in U.S.-Israeli relations is needed under the next prime minister. “Netanyahu, he’s always running [with] the Republican Party,” she said. “We saw it related to Trump, we saw it in the U.S. elections and we saw the payback, Biden’s payback,” she added, speculating about the delayed call to Netanyahu from President Joe Biden after he took office. “I think we’ve been alienated from the Democrats, and I think this is a very bad thing.” Elharrar said while Netanyahu speaks of his warm relationship with Biden, “I can tell you, we feel the coldness here. And I really hope a change in Israel will allow us to re-warm the relationship with the U.S.”
on the hill
A year later, Senate letter against ICC drops to 57 signatures
Fifty-seven senators have signed onto a letter written by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) criticizing the International Criminal Court’s decision to launch a formal investigation of Israel, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod. A larger group of 69 senators signed onto a similar letter in May 2020 — a supermajority of the Senate, Portman boasted at the time.
In the letter: The final version of the letter, which was sent to Secretary of State Tony Blinken on March 11 after the ICC announced it would officially investigate Israel for war crimes, praised the secretary for denouncing the decision and expressed concern over the ICC’s actions. The initial draft of the letter obtained by Jewish Insider on March 1, before the ICC’s pre-trial chamber decided to proceed with an investigation of Israel, urged Blinken to “issue a more forceful condemnation of the Court’s actions,” a call that is missing from the final version.
Off the list: Fourteen current senators — 11 Republicans and three Democrats — who signed the 2020 letter did not sign the letter sent earlier this month. They include Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Richard Burr (R-NC), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV). Five senators — three Democrats and one Republican — who did not sign last year’s letter joined this one, as did four new senators, two Republicans and two Democrats.
What happened? A source familiar with the situation told JI that every senator was contacted about the letter — Republicans by Portman’s office and Democrats by Cardin. But spokespeople for Graham and Tillis said they were never approached. “[Sen. Tillis] was happy to sign it last year, and would have been happy to sign it again as he staunchly opposes the ICC’s unfair and unwarranted treatment of Israel,” Tillis spokesperson Daniel Keylin told JI.
bringing back bacon
Nonprofits welcome the return of congressional earmarks
The House Republican Conference voted yesterday to withdraw its decade-long ban on earmarks, a congressional funding practice that enables individual lawmakers to request designated funding for projects in their districts. Their decision comes after Democrats, now in control of both chambers, pledged to bring back the controversial spending practice — a move welcomed by many nonprofits.
Doing good: Robert Goldberg, the senior director of legislative affairs for the Jewish Federations of North America, who has been a lobbyist for the organization since 2001, described the return of earmarks as a positive step for community programs. “They can do a lot of good,” Goldberg told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod on Tuesday. “These are not the types of earmarks that were criticized or held up as a bridge to nowhere. These are often: ‘What doesn’t the system provide for? What are the gaps that we see in service delivery that these opportunities might address and advance a public policy?’”
New oversight: In response to past scandals, the revived earmarks will include a variety of transparency and accountability measures: only nonprofit organizations will be eligible for earmarks; lawmakers will be limited to 10 requests per fiscal year, which are not guaranteed to be funded; members will be required to prove their communities support the projects; and legislators will have to post the requests online when they submit them. Under the plan from House Democrats, earmarks will comprise no more than 1% of total federal discretionary spending.
⛹️♂️ Jewish Jordan: In the Los Angeles Times, Matt Giles profiles Ryan Turell, a sophomore standout on Yeshiva University’s basketball team — currently enjoying the longest winning streak in the country. “Jews can play basketball,” Turell said. “I made a decision to really be a part of something special, to be a Jewish hero and to create the dream — a basketball culture for Jews — and make this program, which had been seen as a joke, a high-major one.” [LATimes]
🏠 Buying Boom: In The Wall Street Journal, Laura Latham reports on an influx of American buyers purchasing properties in Tel Aviv. “The time frame for people moving to Israel has shortened,” said real estate lawyer Debbie Rosen-Solow. “Clients who had it in the back of their mind are now going ahead.” [WSJ]
❓ Asking Questions: Politico foreign affairs correspondentNahal Toosi lays out “9 Questions for Tony Blinken,” including queries on ICC sanctions, whether the Biden administration will describe the West Bank and Gaza as “occupied territories” and “does the U.S. actually, truly, seriously intend to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal?” [Politico]
Around the Web
🛬 Welcome Home: Israel’s Supreme Court ruled yesterday that restricting entry to 3,000 Israelis per day is an infringement of their basic rights, and must end this weekend.
✈️ Bumpy Takeoff: Israel announced a $210 million bailout yesterday of the struggling El Al Airlines by purchasing 20 years of advance tickets for security personnel.
🇮🇷 Tough Talk: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Politico that President Joe Biden needs to use an executive order to rescind sanctions before any new talks can begin.
👉 Pushing Blame: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused a “small minority” of hardline opponents of obstructing efforts to lift U.S. sanctions on Tehran.
🤝 Same Page: At the U.S.-Israel strategic talks last week on Iran, officials from both countries reportedly presented almost identical intelligence reports about Iranian activities.
🇾🇪 Green Light: Officials say Biden administration efforts to detach the U.S. from fighting in Yemen have emboldened Iranian-backed Houthi fighters in the region.
👶 Modern Miracle: Scientists at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science have developed groundbreaking technology to grow a mouse embryo inside an artificial womb.
🚁 Flying High: Israeli authorities ran an initial test yesterday of a delivery drone pilot program in the skies over the town of Hadera.
🖥️ Making Moves: Israeli software development firm Incredibuild raised $140 million in a venture capital funding round, which it said will help it expand its U.S. operations.
💉 Shot Slowdown: Officials in Rockland County, N.Y., expressed dismay over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision not to open a mass vaccination site in the county, despite its large ultra-Orthodox community, which was singled out by the governor during the virus’s peak.
🏫 Across the Pond: The University of Bristol launched an investigation of a professor who called for “the end of Zionism” and made antisemitic comments about Jewish students.
🏅 Honors: American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris was named an officer within the Legion of Honor, France’s highest order of merit, by French Ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Étienne.
⚾ Bad Deal: In his new book, excerpted in Bloomberg, Devin Gordon looks at the notorious deal inked between former Mets player Bobby Bonilla and the team’s owners, the Wilpon family, that guaranteed Bonilla a $25 million delayed payout — which began shortly after the Wilpons lost millions to Bernie Madoff.
🏀 Sports Blink: The Miami Heat traded Meyers Leonard to the Oklahoma City Thunder a week after he was censured for using an antisemitic slur while playing a video game.
📺 Coming Soon: Hulu released a trailer yesterday for its upcoming documentary on the dramatic rise and fall of WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann.
😷🥪 Mask Up: Manny’s Deli in Chicago is offering free sandwiches for a day if staffers don’t have to ask patrons to wear masks for a full month.
🍲 Big Bite: A new pop-up eatery in Richmond, Virginia, named JewFro, is serving up cuisine inspired by the fusion of African and Jewish cultures.
📚 Book Shelf: In The New York Times, author Judy Batalion previews her upcoming book, The Light of Days, about the untold stories of Jewish women in the Nazi resistance movement.
🕯️ Remembering: Barbara Rickles, widow of comedian Don Rickles and frequent target of his “Jewish wife” jokes, died at 84.
Gif of the Day
Workers clean out the notes left in the Western Wall — and collect them to be buried on the Mount of Olives — ahead of Passover.
Screenwriter and film executive, best known for co-writing the screenplay for “Jaws” and its first two sequels, Carl Gottlieb turns 83… Professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University, Deborah Esther Lipstadt turns 74… National columnist with Creators Syndicate and contributor to CNN Opinion, Froma Harrop turns 71… One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (Jerry is four days older), Ben Cohen turns 70… French businessman, CEO and chairman of Électricité de France and a board member of Societe Generale, Jean-Bernard Lévy turns 66… Former crisis response team manager for the City of Los Angeles, Jeffrey Zimerman, MSW turns 65…Head coach of the Auburn Tigers men’s basketball team, he also served as the gold medal winning head coach for the Maccabi USA men’s basketball team at the 2009 Maccabiah Games, Bruce Pearl turns 61…
Dean of the rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Daniel S. Nevins turns 55… Filmmaker, writer and stand-up comedian, Jake David Shapiro turns 52… Identical twin brothers and former yeshiva students, both singers and songwriters who recorded as “Evan and Jaron,” Evan Lowenstein and Jaron Lowenstein, turn 47… Singer songwriter and lead vocalist for the pop rock band Maroon 5, Adam Levine turns 42… Actor, comedian and writer, Adam Pally turns 39… Sales manager at IKO Industries Ltd, Ariel Koschitzky turns 32… Andrew G. Weiss turns 32… MBA candidate at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, Michael Schapiro turns 29… Actor and television producer, best known for his role on the Netflix original series “Orange Is the New Black,” Alan Aisenberg turns 28… Jenni Volz…