👋 Good Thursday morning!
A missile fired from Syria fell in the south of Israel early this morning, near the country’s purported nuclear reactor in Dimona, according to the IDF. Israel retaliated for the missile — which caused no damage — by striking the launch site near Damascus.
Reports indicate that the projectile fired from Syria was a surface-to-air missile — that Israel failed to intercept — intended to shoot down an IDF aircraft, and was not intentionally aimed at Dimona.
U.S. officials reportedly outlined to Iran this week which sanctions it would potentially agree to lift in order to pave the way for a return to the 2015 nuclear deal — and which are not on the table. More below.
President Joe Biden is slated to declare the World War I-era atrocities against ethnic Armenians a genocide today, a move likely to further affect the U.S.’s already frayed relationship with Turkey.
Israeli NBA star Deni Avdija fractured his ankle during the Washington Wizards game last night against the Golden State Warriors and will reportedly not return to play this season.
Majority of House members express opposition to conditioning aid to Israel
In a full-throated defense of the U.S.-Israel relationship, approximately three-quarters of the House of Representatives — split relatively evenly between Democrats and Republicans — will send a letter today to the chair and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee supporting continued security assistance to Israel, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod has learned.
Show of force: The letter, which has 330 signatures, was led by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Michael McCaul (R-TX), and comes on the heels of a bill from Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and 15 Democratic cosponsors that would place additional regulations on U.S. aid to Israel. The Deutch-McCaul letter, a copy of which was obtained by JI, represents a show of force from pro-Israel legislators in Congress, and a repudiation of calls from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to condition or otherwise restrict aid to Israel. The letter was boosted by an AIPAC lobbying campaign.
Quotable: “We recognize that not every Member of Congress will agree with every policy decision of every Israeli government,” the letter reads. “Reducing funding or adding conditions on security assistance would be detrimental to Israel’s ability to defend itself against all threats. We urge you to fulfill our commitments as agreed to in the 2016 MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] as codified by the [2020 U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act], and in accordance with all U.S. laws.”
Bridging the aisle: In a statement, Deutch emphasized the significant bipartisan support for continued aid to Israel. “There should be no doubt of where Congress stands in our support for Israel’s security after an overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans signed on to support full funding of security assistance to our closest Middle East ally,” Deutch said. McCaul echoed this sentiment, saying, “This letter clearly demonstrates that Republicans and Democrats in Congress stand together in opposing conditions on our security assistance to Israel.”
all about iran
As Iran talks advance, House GOP and Pompeo push back
As reports emerged yesterday from talks in Vienna that the U.S. had indicated it is willing to withdraw some sanctions on Iran, House Republicans, joined by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, mounted their largest effort yet to obstruct the negotiations. Also on Capitol Hill yesterday, Colin Kahl’s nomination to be undersecretary of defense for policy inched forward with a 51-50 Senate vote to advance the nomination to full Senate consideration.
Floodgates: The U.S. has reportedly signaled it is open to lifting some terror sanctions against Iran’s central bank, national oil and tanker companies and economic sectors like steel and aluminum, but also told Iran that there were other sanctions it would not lift. The news prompted swift backlash from congressional Republicans. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) called the news “unbelievable” and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said easing sanctions is “unthinkable” and that “Biden needs to stop with this weak and misguided strategy and keep maximum pressure on the Ayatollah until Iran is no longer a threat to U.S. national security.”
Skin of his teeth: After a monthlong delay, the Senate voted 51-50 yesterday to discharge Kahl’s nomination from the Senate Armed Services Committee, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting her first tie-breaking vote on a Biden nominee. The tied vote signals a continued slog on the two subsequent votes needed to approve Kahl’s nomination. Republicans have opposed Kahl for his positions on Iran and his controversial tweets and have also accused him of leaking classified information.
Concerted effort: On the other side of the Capitol building, a group of more than 80 House Republicans, led by Republican Study Committee chair Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), announced their plans to introduce a 118-page bill that would enact further sanctions on Iran and limit the Biden administration’s ability to roll back existing sanctions. The legislation is by far the most extensive and and widely supported GOP legislation relating to Iran’s nuclear program introduced this congressional term, but without support from any Democrats, has little chance of passage.
Sweeping roadblocks: “This bill will do three things. It shows that Congress is not bound to agreements by the president that purports to speak on our behalf,” Banks told reporters. “Secondly it codifies the Trump administration’s maximum-pressure strategy until Iran meets the 12 demands laid out by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in May of 2018. And thirdly, it expands the existing, bipartisan Iran sanctions mandated by Congress, making it the toughest sanctions bill ever introduced in Congress on Iran.”
Road to ‘24: Pompeo’s prominent involvement in this legislation is somewhat unusual for a former secretary of state. Pompeo, who served in the House from 2011 until joining the Trump administration in 2017, is widely believed to be positioning himself for a future presidential run. “I’ve been working on this issue with respect to Iran for an awfully long time… Today I’m a private citizen, I’m here in my status as a private citizen,” Pompeo said. “As a private citizen I care deeply that Iran never has a nuclear weapon and when I saw this legislation forming, I talked with Congressman Banks and I said I want to be a part of making sure that this is successful.”
on the hill
Bipartisan legislation to support Arab-Israeli normalization introduced in House
A bipartisan group of House members introduced a bill yesterday that seeks to promote normalization between Israel and Arab nations, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod. The bill directs the State Department to study and submit reports to Congress on how the U.S. can support and expand last years’ agreements normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
Join the party: The bill, sponsored by Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Ann Wagner (R-MO), Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), Peter Meijer (R-MI), Greg Meeks (D-NY) and Michael McCaul (R-TX), is a companion to a bipartisan Senate bill introduced in late March. The legislation was the subject of a lobbying campaign by AIPAC during its virtual gathering last month. Meeks and McCaul are the top ranking Democrat and Republican, respectively, on the House Foreign Relations Committee, meaning the bill will have powerful backing in both parties as it moves forward in the House.
Two-state hopes: In a statement regarding the legislation, Schneider expressed hope that the recent normalization agreements could help pave a path toward a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. “It is my hope now, as it was when these accords were first announced, that these accords will open the door to a new era of peace, building momentum to future normalization agreements and ultimately forging a path to an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians ensuring a secure, Jewish and democratic Israel living side-by-side with a Palestinian state with peace, security, and prosperity for both peoples,” said Schneider.
United front: Wagner suggested that the normalization agreements could help restrain Iranian influence in the region. “This legislation will expand upon the achievements of the Abraham Accords and help our Israeli and Arab partners build a more peaceful and stable region,” she said. “By strengthening regional cooperation, we will also improve our ability to counter Iran’s destabilizing agenda.”
Plant a tree in Israel with Bitcoin
The Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA), which fundraises and makes grants on behalf of projects in Israel, is open for bitcoin business. “There’s an increase in giving in cryptocurrency, so why not be in the mix?” Matt Bernstein, JNF-USA’s chief planned giving officer, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff, who spoke with fundraisers and investment experts about cryptocurrency contributions and their possible risks.
Big spender: “Cryptocurrency donations are usually not small-dollar donations,” said Ryan Raffin, a partner at the Jacksonville, Fla.-based risk management firm Charitable Solutions. “The lowest we’ve ever encountered would have been five figures; we’ve seen donations that are seven figures or more.”
Touch and go: A single bitcoin is worth around $55,000, but its value can fluctuate significantly. This past Sunday, its value fell 11% from a record high of nearly $65,000 per coin. Nonprofits don’t need to worry about cryptocurrencies’ price swings if they sell donations right away, said Michael Bloch, a former principal at the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company who now advises Israeli startups. Bernstein said that’s what JNF-USA intends to do. “The minute we get it we’re going to convert it to cash. It’s highly volatile, and we’re not in the speculation business. This is our general policy; it’s what we do with stock.”
In the community: Chabad, which has been accepting donations in cryptocurrency since 2013 and published an article contemplating its spiritual meaning and status in Jewish law, has the same policy. Chabad gets a “moderate amount” of donations in cryptocurrency, said a spokesman, Rabbi Motti Seligson, but the vast majority of its monetary donations are in forms backed and regulated by governments. Similarly, this past December, the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund announced a partnership with Endaoment, a nonprofit community foundation that had developed cryptocurrency donation software, to convert such donations into dollars as they flow into the federation’s donor-advised fund.
⚔️ On the Ground: In the New York Review of Books, Yardena Schwartz traces the fraught history of the West Bank city of Hebron and explores the revisionist history often shared by both Palestinians and Israelis about the contentious tract of land. “Hebron epitomizes the clash of competing, exclusive claims that defines this conflict… Both sides have their narratives that the other is bent on ethnic cleansing.” [NYRB]
📛 Labels: The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer explores the history of the term “Anglo-Saxon” as a coded term for racial exclusivity still being used today. “Nativists needed a way to explain why these immigrants — Polish, Russian, Greek, Italian, and Jewish — were distinct from earlier generations, and why their presence posed a danger.” [Atlantic]
🥊 In the Ring: Former boxer Dmitry Salita opens up to Dom McGuinness in The Sportsman about his family’s journey from Ukraine to New York to escape antisemitism and his own religious transformation as an adult. “It was unusual to be a Jewish boxer and someone who was so observant,” he said. “I wanted people to know that you can achieve and still be aligned with your values.” [Sportsman]
Around the Web
🗳️ Postponement: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is reportedly considering delaying the upcoming Palestinian national elections slated for next month.
📵 Blocked: Facebook announced it identified and took down two clusters of hackers with ties to the Palestinian Authority intelligence services.
🤝 At the Table: Iraq is mediating talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia in an attempt to develop warmer relations between the two countries, but little progress has been made so far.
🕵️ Big Brother: Controversial Israeli cyber firm NSO Group reportedly held talks with Jordan to sell its spying technology to the government.
🏥 Hospitalized: ZAKA founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, who was accused earlier this year of decades of sexual abuse, attempted to take his own life this morning and is in critical condition.
💰 Buy In: Israel is planning to issue a sovereign debt offering on the international market sometime this year.
🖥️ Cloud Cover: Israel has chosen Amazon and Google to oversee state-run local cloud centers at a cost of NIS 4 billion.
📈 Startup Nation: Israeli-founded digital ad startup Outbrain has filed for a U.S. IPO.
👨💼 Name Change: Politico highlights how Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff has sought to “rebrand” himself from “Doug” on the campaign trail to “Douglas” in the White House.
💸 Big Buy: Israeli-American entrepreneur Alex Bouaziz’s startup Deel, backed by investors including Andreessen Horowitz, is raising funds at a $1.25 billion valuation, up from $225 million last year.
🏡 For Sale: The Kushner Company has sold two apartment complexes in Baltimore as it seeks to unload half of its assets in Maryland.
⚽ Bad Planning: Failed plans to create a “Super League” were a “massive miscalculation by a handful of extremely wealthy owners,” CNN’s Chris Cillizza argues, including Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and Manchester City owner Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
🏈 Let’s Make a Deal: Newly retired New England Patriot Julian Edelman signed a deal with ViacomCBS to develop programming and will also appear on “Inside the NFL” as an analyst.
🎥 Coming Soon: Netflix has picked up a new Israeli thriller series, “Blackspace,” about a shooting at a high school.
🕯️ Remembering: Advertising powerhouse Carl Spielvogel died at 92.
Song of the Day
Israeli singer-songwriter Ninet Tayeb has released a new song, titled “Rak Shelo Tipol Haruach” (As Long As The Wind Doesn’t Fall).
Calgary-based CEO of Balmon Investments, Alvin Libin turns 90… Actor and later one of Hollywood’s most prolific producers, Mark Damon turns 88… Co-founder of Human Rights Watch, formerly national director of the ACLU and president of George Soros’s Open Society Institute, Aryeh Neier turns 84… English journalist and former anchor of BBC Television’s “Newsnight,” Adam Eliot Geoffrey Raphael turns 83… Former U.S. Poet Laureate and winner of a Pulitzer Prize, she was the 2020 Nobel Prize laureate in literature, Louise Elisabeth Glück turns 78… Conductor and professor of music at Boston University, Joshua Rifkin turns 77… Recent mayor of Madison, Wisconsin (2011-2019), he had served as mayor twice before (1973-1979 and again 1989-1997), Paul R. Soglin turns 76… British economist and former Chief Economist at the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Herbert Stern turns 75… Real estate developer and principal owner of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, Zygmunt “Zygi” Wilf turns 71…
Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google, Ruth Porat turns 64… Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The Washington Post, Sari Horwitz turns 64… NYC area accountant, Edward Lifshitz turns 63… New Zealand native now serving as the CEO of Australian-based job-board SEEK, Ian Narev turns 54… NYC-based attorney and member of Kriss & Feuerstein LLP, Jerold C. Feuerstein turns 53… News director of The Forward, Benyamin Cohen turns 46… Member of the Knesset for the Blue and White alliance, he now serves as Minister of Culture and Sport, Yehiel Moshe “Hili” Tropper turns 43… Midwest bureau chief at The Wall Street Journal, Shayndi Raice turns 39… Entrepreneur, investor, and former president of Y Combinator and now the CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman turns 36… Recent graduate from New York University School of Law, Zachary Krooks turns 26… Competitive ice dancer, Elliana Pogrebinsky turns 23… Israeli columnist at Kan News, contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and the Jewish Journal, Shmuel Rosner…