👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the Associated Press yesterday that she would not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2024 if former President Donald Trump enters the race. The former South Carolina governor said Trump would have her support should he choose to run.
A New York Times deep dive into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s rise to power highlighted the governor’s disdain for courting voters, on display when he was scheduled to attend a Sukkot event.“These people and their f**king tree houses,” the governor reportedly said.
Top Israeli and U.S. national security officialsare scheduled to meet virtually today for the second in a series of meetings to discuss Iran. Today’s meeting, led by U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Meir Ben Shabbat, who holds the same role in Israel, is expected to focus on Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday afternoon, a day after a blackout at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran, which a number of security experts have attributed to Israel. “In the Middle East, there is no threat that is more serious, more dangerous, more pressing than that posed by the fanatical regime in Iran,” Netanyahu said in a press conference after the meeting. More below.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who blames Israel for the blackout, said earlier today that Israel made a “very bad gamble” and that the attack would “strengthen” the Iranian position in nuclear talks. Zarif also warned that “Americans should know that neither sanctions nor sabotage actions would provide them with an instrument for talks.”
Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Remembrance Day, begins this evening.
New leverage or diplomatic setback? Washington debates impact of Natanz blackout
The fallout from Sunday’s blackout at the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in Iran continued Monday, with some congressional Democrats warning of potential setbacks in negotiations, while policy experts suggested the incident provides the Biden administration with additional leverage as it attempts a rapprochement with Tehran, Jewish Insider‘s Marc Rod and Gabby Deutch report.
All on Iran: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the incident, reportedly the result of an Israeli attack, may have “thrown a monkey wrench” in the negotiations, although “probably temporarily.” Menendez recently led a bipartisan letter calling for the Biden administration to reach a more comprehensive agreement with Iran than the 2015 nuclear agreement. The presumed attack “may give [Iran] pause, because I’m sure that the Iranians must believe that we knew about it. And if we didn’t know about it, then it’s equally as bad for us,” Menendez told JI. “The real question,” he added, “is, does Iran really want to come to the table and seriously engage in a pathway forward that makes sure it doesn’t have nuclear weapons and… also doesn’t doesn’t do malign activity? That’s an open question.”
Diplomatic setback: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who unlike Menendez backed the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran and is leading a Senate letter supporting reentering the JCPOA and rolling back U.S. sanctions on Iran, was likewise concerned about the incident’s implications. “At first blush, it wouldn’t appear that it will help facilitate constructive negotiations,” Murphy told JI. “Any time there’s activity of that nature, it’s not likely going to be constructive in the midst of diplomatic efforts.”
Time on their side: Outside of Congress, some skeptics of Iran’s commitment to the nuclear agreement claim the attack, which is predicted to set back Iran’s nuclear weapons capability by at least nine months, shows that the U.S. has solid leverage in negotiations with Iran that should keep the Biden administration from rushing into a new agreement. “I would hope it’s a message to Rob Malley [the State Department’s Iran envoy] and the folks in the Biden administration that they don’t need to be so desperate for a deal, that they don’t need to be rushing for a return to the JCPOA,” said Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, “and they don’t need to be giving out massive concessions to Iran in terms of economic relief, that time is actually on their side.”
Policy of politeness: In discussing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and attempts to reenter or renegotiate that deal, Biden administration officials have been solicitous of Republican members of Congress and Israeli officials, two groups that are poised to be critical of efforts to rejoin the JCPOA. “Each side — the Biden side and the Israeli side — [is] very careful to avoid some of the dynamic of the Obama years, where you had some thinly veiled ad hominem attacks,” said David Makovsky, director of the program on Arab-Israel Relations at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy. “Where [Secretary of State Tony] Blinken has been very successful is avoiding any whiff of ad hominem [attacks] by saying, look, you have views, we have views, let’s talk.” It is unclear how long that dynamic will last. “You can’t paper over the differences here,” Makovsky argued. “Everyone is much more polite and friendly, but the differences are not being bridged.”
big apple politics
Mark Levine, New York’s wonky pandemic darling, makes his bid for Manhattan borough president
Before the pandemic, Mark Levine, a New York City councilmember who is running for Manhattan borough president, was viewed as an ambitious lawmaker with a strong progressive bent. But his profile has risen dramatically as he has become one of New York’s most trusted resources on COVID-19 — an unlikely role for a politician with no experience in medicine. But as the virus hit, Levine emerged as an early voice of reason, urging caution and championing science from his widely followed Twitter feed while earning praise as “the Anthony Fauci of the New York City Council.” “I’m going to be a public health warrior for the rest of my life,” Levine said in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “As borough president, I will fight really hard for a full and just recovery from this pandemic.”
High marks: As the vaccine rollout continues apace, Levine’s social media presence has transformed into a veritable catalogue of available appointments. “His platform has become one of the most important to follow for up-to-date information around vaccine access,” said Dara Kass, an associate clinical professor of emergency medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. “I have seen him absolutely shine as a leader through this pandemic.” David Greenfield, the Met Council CEO and former city councilmember, said Levine “has attracted a citywide following” during the pandemic. “That has made him tremendously popular even outside of Manhattan.”
Primary momentum: That reputation will no doubt serve Levine well as he competes in the Democratic primary for Manhattan borough president. The 51-year-old announced his candidacy in January 2020 and has raked in endorsements from a number of prominent figures such as City Comptroller Scott Stringer. Though Levine was initially somewhat cavalier about the pandemic, denouncing COVID-19 “fear mongering” in an early-February Twitter message, his rhetoric quickly shifted when he and his wife contracted the virus. “It undoubtedly makes it more real and gives me authority to say that this is anything but just like the flu,” he said. “I see my role, as standing up for science, for equity, for compassion.”
Sweeping change: Levine sees an opportunity in the wake of the pandemic to advance sweeping change, calling for investment in universal healthcare and an expansion of the city’s parks. Whether he can enact such priorities as Manhattan borough president depends on how effectively he can wield the limited number of responsibilities that fall under his purview. “What it really all adds up to is a very powerful platform for organizing, and this is how I’ve led in the council,” Levine said. “We enacted right to counsel for tenants, really historic legislation, because I led a three-year organizing campaign. I think that my record as chair of the Jewish caucus proves that I can take on a role that has been seen as ceremonial and use it to organize for impact.”
‘Pursuit of justice’: Throughout his four years leading the Jewish caucus, Levine worked to address Jewish poverty and raise awareness around antisemitism. He also visited Israel on a delegation of council members. “We came under attack for that,” Levine recalled. “There’s a real double standard.” Levine, who has family in Israel, is fluent in Hebrew, viewing the language as “a central part” of his Jewish identity. “A phrase which motivates me every day when I get out of bed to do this work is tzedek tzedek tirdof,” he said, referring to a line from Deuteronomy that translates to “Justice, justice you shall pursue.” “It’s the pursuit of justice,” Levine told JI, “which our sages have taught us is such an essential value.”
Read the full profile here.
ADL calls for increase in homeland security spending following Biden budget proposal
The Anti-Defamation League is calling on Congress to appropriate more than $750 million for programs to combat hate and extremism and improve law enforcement procedures for dealing with hate crimes following the release on Friday of the White House’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget proposal to Congress, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Going big: For the second consecutive year, the ADL is requesting that congressional appropriators double funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) to $360 million from $180 million. The NSGP is a Department of Homeland Security-administered program which provides funding for nonprofits, including synagogues, to enhance their security. Other organizations, including the Jewish Federations of North America and the Orthodox Union, are also calling for the increase.
Not enough funds: “Despite a generous increase in the NSGP program in recent years, the need continues to be greater than the resources provided,” Max Sevilla, ADL’s vice president for government Relations, wrote in a letter to leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees. “At a time of increased vulnerability to threats of hate-motivated violence by domestic extremists, Congress should significantly increase funding for non-profit religious institutions and other non-profit organizations that government and law enforcement authorities objectively determine are at high risk of attack.”
Reaching further: The Biden administration’s budget request, sent to Congress last week, does not pinpoint a specific request for NSGP, but includes an additional $101 million for domestic terrorism prevention efforts for the Department of Justice, an added $33 million for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and related programs and a total of $131 million for DHS’s efforts to respond to domestic terror. “President Biden’s budget requests for the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice show sorely needed progress to combat domestic terrorism — particularly when coupled with other actions being taken,” Sevilla told JI. “There’s more we’d like to see, but these investments would significantly strengthen our nation’s ability to take on domestic terrorism threats.”
Stacking up: In addition to increased NSGP funding, the ADL’s requests include $1.25 million for the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, $227 million for other grant programs aimed at domestic extremism, $100 million for hate crimes training for local police and an increase of $20 million for domestic extremism research. It also calls on appropriators to support programs to root out extremism in the police and military and efforts to improve hate crime reporting and prevention.
Read more here.
🎙️ Breaking Through: In Glamour, Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt explores the community of Orthodox female singers, who perform for a largely female audience so as not to run afoul of traditional Jewish rules regarding modesty. “If you look at pop stars today — it is not about the music,” Devorah Schwartz said. “It’s all about sex. But I have a different mission — to empower young girls and women. Can we give them something fun, pop, where they don’t have to go and watch and listen to the other music out there?” [Glamour]
🖼️ Art Scene: After years of speculation, the Wall Street Journal reports that Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” the most expensive painting ever sold, was recently displayed on a superyacht owned by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the purported purchaser of the $450 million painting. The whereabouts of the painting had remained a mystery since its sale in 2017. According to the report, the painting caused a diplomatic tiff when the crown prince agreed to loan the painting to the Louvre Museum in 2019, but backed out after curators refused to hang it beside the heavily secured and highly visited “Mona Lisa.” [WSJ]
👑 Kingmaker Status? The Wall Street Journal’s Dov Lieber looks at the potential impact that Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas could have on efforts to build a coalition government following Israel’s fourth election in two years, noting that Abbas is more focused on economic and social issues within the community than addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The most important thing [for Mr. Abbas] is not the Israel-Palestine issue,” said Arab affairs analyst Mohammad Magadli. “It’s to serve those who voted for them, and to be strong, to be where the power is.” [WSJ]
🖥️ Tech Talks: The New Yorker’s Benjamin Wallace-Wells observes the limits — and potential benefits — of machine learning through a debate between an economic consultant and Project Debater, a machine built by Israeli computer scientist Noam Slonim similar to “Watson,” the famed computer contestant on “Jeopardy!” Wallace-Wells found Project Debater was able to collect and analyze evidence, leaving its human opponent to pivot strategies and avoid the substance of the debate, which he likened to present-day political conversations. Project Debater’s opponent’s “way of defeating the computer, at some level, had been to take a policy question and strip it of all its meaningful specifics.” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
🚰 Free Flow: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a request from Jordan to increase the water supply from Israel to the Hashemite Kingdom, following weeks of pressure from the Biden administration.
🤝 Teamwork: The UAE’s ambassador to Israel is partnering with Tel Aviv’s Start-Up Nation Central Headquarters to create a joint task force to collaborate on meetings, events and programming that will bring together Emirati and Israeli companies.
🛑 Sanctioned: The European Union imposed sanctions on the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and seven others involved in a deadly 2019 crackdown, the first time in eight years that the EU has sanctioned Iran for human rights abuses.
👮 Home Free: Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen is asking a judge to suspend his home confinement sentence, days before he is scheduled to meet with investigators from the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
🍲 Bete’avon: Traces of food on fragments of recently discovered medieval pottery in Oxford indicate that Jews in 12th century England adhered to a strict kosher diet.
🧆 On the Menu: Memphis’ meal delivery service Zayde’s NYC Deli opened its first brick-and-mortar location, Zayde’s at the J, at the Memphis Jewish Community Center.
🏡 New Digs: Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison purchased an oceanfront estate in Palm Beach, Fla., for $80 million from hedge fund manager Gabe Hoffman.
🎮 Big Investment: Len Blavatnik is leading one of the top backers of the Israeli-founded, U.K.-based gaming company Tripledot Studios, which raised $78 million in series A funding.
📺 Turned Down: Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch defended Tucker Carlson after the Anti-Defamation League called for the Fox News commentator’s firing over comments made about the “great replacement theory.”
🏈 Saying Goodbye: New England Patriots wide receiver and 2019 Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman announced his retirement in a video released Monday evening. Appearing on the field of Gillette Stadium, Edelman wore a grey jacket with a Star of David necklace overlaid on a dark blue turtleneck.
📽️ Coming Attractions: Greenwich Entertainment has acquired the rights to “Love It Was Not,” a documentary about the years-long relationship between a woman imprisoned in Auschwitz and an SS officer.
🎞️ Acquired: British television distribution company Fremantle has taken full ownership of Abot Hameiri, the Israeli production company behind the hit show “Shtisel.”
Pic of the Day
“Visions of Place,” an exhibition of contemporary Israeli art, is wrapping up its six-year tour of American art museums at the Taubman Museum in Roanoke, Virginia. Located about four hours from Washington, D.C., Roanoke has a Jewish community of just 1,000 people — perhaps a curious location for an Israeli exhibit. But the exhibit’s curators said that is exactly the point: to showcase Israeli art outside of Jewish cultural mainstays like New York and Los Angeles.
“There’s a country out there that knows probably very little about Israel and very little about its art,” said Martin Rosenberg, professor emeritus of art history at Rutgers University. Before reaching Roanke, the exhibition, which runs through June 27, also appeared in geographically diverse areas including Coral Gables, Fla.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Plattsburgh, N.Y.; and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The exhibition is also available virtually.
Longtime drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and the bandleader for Conan O’Brien on “The Tonight Show,” Max Weinberg turns 70…
Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., resident who spied on the Nazis for the French Free Forces in the latter days of World War II, Marthe Cohn turns 101… Curator and former director of the Louvre, Pierre Rosenberg turns 85… Geneticist and Nobel Prize laureate, Michael Stuart Brown turns 80… Author and former CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Gloria Feldt turns 79… Managing director at Tiedemann Advisors, Bob Hormats turns 78… Recently retired member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-CA), Susan Carol Alpert Davis turns 77… VP of the New Israel Fund, Paul Egerman turns 72… Actor who won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Vincent in the television series “Beauty and the Beast,” Ron Perlman turns 71… Partner in RMS Investment Group, Deborah Ratner Salzberg turns 68…
Former member of the UK Parliament, Barbara Roche (née Margolis) turns 67… Principal of Dubin & Co. and a founding board member of the Robin Hood Foundation, Glenn Dubin turns 64… Author of six books and co-host of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman turns 64… Former orthopedic surgeon who was the Democratic nominee for the 2020 U.S. Senate election in Alaska, Alan Stuart Gross turns 59… Youngest-ever Federal Reserve governor, Kevin Warsh turns 51… Guitarist and founding member of the rock group Staind, Aaron Lewis turns 49… CEO and executive director of DC-based Sixth & I, Heather Moran turns 48… Staff writer at Tablet magazine, Armin Rosen turns 33… Director of government affairs at CUFI, Alexandria Paolozzi turns 32… Senior director of strategic partnerships at Dataminr, Morgan Hitzig turns 31… Chief of staff at the Israel on Campus Coalition, Ian Hersh… Lauren Epstein… Helene Cash… Aharon Lipnitzky…