👋 Good Friday morning!
Ed note: In celebration of the upcoming Shavuot holiday, the next Daily Kickoff will arrive on Wednesday morning.
The IDF intensified its offensive on Gaza overnight, firing artillery and tank shells into the Strip from the ground in addition to ongoing air strikes. Despite later-retracted reports, the IDF has not yet launched a ground incursion into Gaza.
Reports suggest that the IDF intentionallymisled foreign media about a ground invasion, in an effort to force Hamas operatives underground so that Israel Air Force jets could strike its underground tunnels.
According to Gaza Health Ministry officials, 115 people have been killed since fighting began earlier this week. The death toll in Israel rose to nine, including two women who died in the past 24 hours after sustaining injuries while running to a bomb shelter.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late last night that the military operation “will continue as long as necessary in order to restore the quiet and security to the State of Israel.”
Yamina leader Naftali Bennett indicated yesterday that he would no longer work to build a coalition with Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, saying that a government with the Islamic party Ra’am is not feasible amid the current violence. Lapid vowed to continue his efforts regardless; his mandate expires June 2.
Bennett has now purportedly returned to negotiations with Netanyahu, but in order to form a coalition, they would need to successfully appeal to New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar or Defense Minister Benny Gantz to join them.
The U.N. Security Council is slated to meet on Sunday to discuss the ongoing Israeli-Gaza conflict, after the U.S. objected to holding the meeting today and sought a delay.
race to gracie
Dianne Morales veers from mayoral pack on Gaza
Donning their foreign policy hats, several candidates in New York City’s hotly contested mayoral race were quick to weigh in as violence erupted between Israel and Hamas this week. While most expressed their unwavering support for the Jewish state, the lone dissenting voice was Dianne Morales, the outspoken former nonprofit executive who has positioned herself to the left of every leading candidate in the crowded Democratic primary field. Morales admitted to harboring “really complicated feelings” about Israel in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “I see myself as a champion for equal rights and protections under the law.”
‘Apartheid state’: Morales traveled to Israel in 2015 on a mission sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. During a private virtual event with Jewish high school students last December, she accused Israel of “apartheid” while describing the trip as “propaganda,” according to leaked audio obtained by The Forward. Speaking with JI, however, she seemed hesitant to invoke the same feisty rhetoric. “JCRC does really incredibly important work for the community of New Yorkers around leadership development and advocacy for the Jewish community,” she said, “and I certainly look forward to continuing to support that work as mayor.”
Views on BDS: Asked for her personal stance on the BDS movement — which is rejected by almost every mayoral candidate in the race as well as by a number of the most progressive candidates now running for public office across the country — Morales was noncommittal. “As a candidate and the mayor of New York City, it’s less important what I believe than what I’m going to uphold for New Yorkers,” she said. “I am going to uphold that it not be criminalized.”
Revisiting Israel: Morales said she was open to visiting Israel again if she is elected — something of a rite of passage for New York City mayors. Bill de Blasio, the outgoing two-term mayor, toured the Jewish state on a 48-hour trip in his second year in office. But Morales made clear that any future visit would likely be on her own terms. “I’m not opposed to visiting Israel,” she said. “I would want to do that independently rather than through any kind of sponsored trip because I think it’s important to being able to maintain my own sort of independence, judgment and decision-making.”
The three ‘I’s: Ultimately, Morales was reluctant to discuss such issues in much depth. “I don’t want to distract from the race that I am in,” she said. “If I had wanted to get mired in the international stuff, I’d probably run for a different thing.” But while New York City mayors wield no direct influence over foreign policy, Morales may discover that the scope of the job is broader than she expects. “There was a time in New York City politics, years back, that if you ran for mayor you had to go immediately and visit the three ‘I’s: Italy, Ireland and Israel,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran Democratic consultant in New York. “Now the ethnic politician has shifted, so what’s left? Just one ‘I,’ and that’s Israel.”
on the hill
Democratic split on Israel on display in competing House speeches
Opposing groups of House Democrats leveled both direct and indirect arguments against each other on the House floor last night in speeches that addressed the ongoing conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod from Capitol Hill.
One side: A group of nine pro-Israel Democrats — Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Jim Costa (D-CA) and Lois Frankel (D-FL) — delivered one-minute speeches during the House’s general session calling out rocket attacks on Israel, defending U.S. security aid to the Jewish state and criticizing those who have critiqued Israel’s response to the rocket attacks.
The other side: They were followed later in the evening by a group of 11 Democrats heavily critical of Israel — Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jesús García (D-IL), André Carson (D-IN) and Joaquín Castro (D-TX) — who spoke for an hour in total criticizing Israeli government policies, lawmakers who have defended Israel and Israel’s actions in the escalating clash, and calling for conditioning aid to the Jewish state. The longer speaking slot for the second group was granted to them by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which can assign one special order hour each week.
No excuses: “No one here should make excuses for a terrorist organization,” Gottheimer said. “Who is the next target of their sympathy? ISIS? Al Qaeda? Hezbollah? Even though we may not always agree about Israel’s policies, we should be very clear that nothing — nothing — justifies a terrorist organization firing rockets at our ally.” Manning brought her own personal experiences to the fore in her speech, recounting her own encounter with rocket fire from Gaza during a past trip to Israel. “I’ve been in Israel when rockets were fired from Gaza in Sderot,” Manning said. “I know the terror of running for cover with sirens blaring overhead, not knowing whether I’d make it in time.” Deutch declared: “If I’m asked to choose between a terrorist organization and our Democratic ally, I’ll stand with Israel every single day of the week.”
No mentions: Tlaib, standing beside posters showing injured Palestinian children, gave a tearful speech in which she spoke out about her own experiences as a Palestinian American and excoriated her colleagues. The Michigan congresswoman lambasted Democratic leaders’ responses to the ongoing violence. “To read the statements from President [Joe] Biden, Secretary [of State Tony] Blinken, [Secretary of Defense] Gen. [Lloyd] Austin and leaders of both parties, you’d hardly know Palestinians existed at all,” she said. Omar likewise slammed members of Congress for statements supporting Israel’s right to self-defense and criticizing the Hamas rocket attacks. “Instead of condemning blatant crimes against humanity and human rights abuses, many members of Congress have instead fallen back on the blanketed statement defending Israel’s airstrikes against civilians under the guise of self-defense without even a mention of the children getting killed, much less a mention of what happened at Al-Aqsa or in Sheikh Jarrah,” Omar said.
Elsewhere: Nina Turner and Shontel Brown, the leading Democratic candidates in Ohio’s 11th-district special election, offered sharply divergent statements this week on the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas, reports Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
New legislation urges University of Illinois to adopt IHRA definition as it faces federal civil rights complaint
A new resolution introduced in the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday calls on the board of trustees of the University of Illinois to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. The proposed non-binding resolution comes more than a year after a federal civil rights complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education accusing the university of not doing enough to combat increasing antisemitism on its Urbana-Champaign campus.
On notice: “The fact is, we have seen no resolution, nor has the university taken steps to address the concerns of the students,” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, who introduced the resolution, told JI. “To see this happen and to drag on — to me, it’s unacceptable. And so this resolution, I hope, puts the university on notice that we’re watching, and we want you to resolve this in the appropriate way.” Durkin introduced the resolution without any input from Jewish organizations in Illinois or members of the Illinois Jewish Legislative Caucus.
Best practices: The resolution urges the university’s board of trustees to adopt the IHRA definition “as a basis for recommending policies and actions to stop anti-Semitism at the University of Illinois.” In March, the Biden administration declared that it “enthusiastically embraces” the IHRA definition, which former President Donald Trump had previously codified in a December 2019 executive order that added antisemitism to the list of types of discrimination prohibited by federal law. The resolution also asks the board of trustees to report back to the General Assembly on the steps it takes to combat antisemitism, and suggests several such steps.
More than words: The complaint against the university was filed in March 2020 by the law firm of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights, alleging that university administrators have “simply not provided the community of pro-Israel, Jewish students with a discrimination-free academic environment.” It followed a wave of antisemitic incidents at the university’s flagship Urbana-Champaign campus. “I’m gratified that public officials in Illinois have recognized the seriousness of the issue and are expressing not just their appreciation for the need to address it, but trying to provide assistance,” Alyza Lewin, president of the Brandeis Center, told JI.
BDS meets BLM: Jewish students at the university have expressed frustration with continuous efforts to pass student government legislation supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. In September, the school’s student government passed a resolution expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement that also called for divestment from companies that do business with Israel. “I should not have to choose between supporting the right of Jews to their homeland and the rights of all people to social justice in the United States,” said student Ian Katsnelson in a public comment during debate over the resolution. “Unfortunately, this resolution forces me to make that choice.”
Elsewhere: The Biden administration has tapped Catherine Lhamon to lead the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the same position she held in the Obama administration.
Warren Bass, an expert on U.S.-Israel relations, takes new Pentagon role
Warren Bass, a former journalist who served as director of speechwriting and as a Middle East policy adviser to Susan Rice in her time as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has joined the Biden administration as director of speechwriting and senior adviser to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, reports Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch.
Background: Bass most recently served as senior editor of the review section at The Wall Street Journal, and earlier in his career held a similar position at The Washington Post. His 2003 book Support Any Friend: Kennedy’s Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel Alliance argued that President John F. Kennedy was the true architect of the modern U.S.-Israel relationship. As a recipient of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, a prestigious program that funds graduate degrees in Jewish studies, Bass earned a Ph.D. in history from Columbia. He then served as a historian on the professional staff of the 9/11 Commission.
High praise: “Warren Bass literally wrote the book on the history of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and no doubt he will bring that deep knowledge — as well as expertise as a journalist and former State Department official — to his work at the Pentagon,” Kenneth Baer, a Democratic speechwriter who served as director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget during the Obama administration, told JI.
💥 Hitting Hard: New York Times columnist Bret Stephens argues that Israel must “defang, deflate and ultimately disempower Hamas” in order to achieve any semblance of peace for Palestinians. “No Israeli government of any ideological stripe is going to concede territory for a Palestinian state that’s likely to look like a larger version of Gaza today: one that terrorizes its neighbors while tyrannizing its people.” [NYTimes]
🕍 Urban-Rural Divide: For City-Journal, Tevi Troy dives into the recent Pew poll on Jewish Americans and explores the schism in voting patterns within the community. “Over the years, party affiliations have shifted: the Republican Party has become more working class, and the Democratic Party has acquired more urban, educated elites. Non-religious Jews fit neatly into the latter category. One can wonder whether Jews played an important role in this shift, or why Jews of past generations defied sociological expectations in remaining liberal, but today the issue is settled.” [CityJournal]
🚀 Mixed Messaging: In Bloomberg, Eli Lake looks at how Hamas’s provocations have garnered the terror organization PR victories but no substantive wins for Palestinians — despite efforts by the group’s leaders to frame themselves as victors. “Hamas is not winning. Nor is it weakening Israelis’ resolve. The only thing Hamas is spoiling is the prosperity and security of the Palestinian people.” [Bloomberg]
Around the Web
🛫 Reroute: A number of European airlines have canceled flights to Tel Aviv, while other flights are being redirected from Ben-Gurion Airport to Ramon International Airport near Eilat.
⚠️ Warning: The International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor warned that the latest violence in Israel and Gaza may become part of the existing investigation into past Israeli-Palestinian clashes.
📹 On Tape: Reuters spotlights video footage in Gaza that shows a building watchman coordinating with the IDF on evacuating civilians before an airstrike on the 13-story structure.
🤝 Sending Support: German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass pledged the government’s “unwavering security” amid a rash of anti-Israel rallies and attacks on Jewish institutions,and Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the attacks on synagogues.
📺 TV Trouble: Newsmax host Greg Stinchfield was taken off the air for the remainder of the week after suggesting that Israel is the “home country” of Jewish Americans.
🕵️ Thorough Investigation: The Manhattan private school attended by the grandchildren of former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg has been subpoenaed as New York prosecutors look into financial records linked to the former president.
🗳️ Thumbs Up: Pro-Israel America announced the endorsements of Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in the 2022 cycle.
⚖️ Mix and Match: The firm founded by progressive hero Roberta Kaplan, famous for working to overturn DOMA, has steadily grown by taking on Trump lawsuits and defending Wall Street.
👚 Good Fit: Walmart will acquire Zeekit, the Israeli startup that creates virtual fitting rooms, as part of its continued expansion into online sales.
🏀 Ball Game: The Milwaukee Bucks signed former Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Elijah Bryant.
Gif of the Day
Israeli singer Aviv Geffen performed for children in a bomb shelter yesterday in Netivot, which is less than 20 miles from Gaza.
FRIDAY: Born in Casablanca and raised in Paris, Upper East Side hair stylist and owner of La Boîte a Coupe salon, Elie Laurent Delouya turns 73… The Green Party’s nominee for president of the United States in the 2012 and 2016 elections, Jill Stein turns 71… Professor of computer science at Technion, Orna Grumberg turns 69… Dean of UC Berkeley Law School, Erwin Chemerinsky turns 68… Los Angeles city attorney, Mike Feuer turns 63… Author of six international bestsellers, Robert Greene turns 62… Former president of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, Rabbi Daniel L. Lehmann turns 59… ESPN’s “SportsCenter” anchor and football sideline reporter, Suzy Kolber turns 57… Senior defense analyst for Bloomberg Government, Robert Levinson turns 56… Chief compliance and integrity officer at Yale New Haven Health, she is a former seven term Connecticut state senator, Gayle Slossberg turns 56… Education program lead of Bloomberg Philanthropies and author of “Your Daily Biscuit,” Howard Wolfson turns 54… Managing partner of Alexandria, VA.-based MVAR Media, Jon Vogel turns 46… Executive producer of CNN’s political and special events programming, David Philip Gelles turns 44… Director of media relations at Chabad Lubavich, Rabbi Motti Seligson turns 39… Facebook’s chairman, CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg turns 37… Bloomberg News and Bloomberg “Businessweek” reporter, Josh Eidelson turns 37… Actress, Sasha Rebecca Spielberg turns 31… Managing director of government relations at The Blackstone Group, he was previously a senior staffer on Senate Majority PAC and an aide and speechwriter for Senator Chuck Schumer, Alex I. Katz turns 31… J.D. candidate in the 2022 class at Stanford Law School, Andrew Ezekoye turns 29… Forward for the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, he was the first pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and is the son of hockey star Ellen Weinberg-Hughes, Jack Hughes turns 20…
SATURDAY: Chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, she was the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state, Madeleine Albright turns 84… Principal of Queens-based Muss Development, a major real estate development company founded by his grandfather Isaac in 1906, Joshua Lawrence Muss turns 80… Chairman emeritus of The Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States, Rachel Oestreicher Bernheim turns 78… VP of the American Zionist Movement and chairman of the Religious Zionists of America, Martin Oliner turns 74… Retired major general in the IDF, now a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, Yaakov Amidror turns 73… CEO of Emigrant Bank, he has co-chaired the annual campaign for the UJA/Federation of New York, Howard Philip Milstein turns 70… Owner of Midnight Music Management, Stuart Wax turns 64… Deputy editorial page editor at the Washington Post, Ruth Allyn Marcus turns 63… Five-time Emmy Award-winning journalist and marketing entrepreneur, Giselle Fernandez turns 60… Owner/President of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, he is the Chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, Mark Wilf turns 59… Former member of the Nevada Assembly, Ellen Barre Spiegel turns 59… Founder of Reeves Advisory, she is a senior fellow at Brown University, Pamela R. Reeves turns 56… Actor David Krumholtz turns 43… Noam Finger turns 43… Grants administrator in the Office of Crime Victim Services at the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Shira Rosenthal Phelps turns 43… Executive Director at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Daniel M. Rothschild turns 41… Actress known for her role as Tony Soprano’s daughter, Meadow, Jamie-Lynn Sigler turns 40… Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author, Eli Eric Saslow turns 39… Rochelle Wilner… Ofir Richman…
SUNDAY: Retired judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, she has served as president and chair of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Ellen Moses Heller turns 80… Former special assistant to VPOTUS Walter Mondale and later Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Bernard W. Aronson turns 75… Longest serving member of the New York State Assembly (since 1971), he was a high school classmate of Congressman Nadler, Richard N. Gottfried turns 74… Former chairman of NBC News and MSNBC, Andy Lack turns 74… Member of the House of Representatives since 2013 (D-FL-21), previously the mayor of West Palm Beach, Lois Frankel turns 73… Harvard history professor, Emma Georgina Rothschild turns 73… Rochester, N.Y., resident and advisor to NYC-based Ezras Nashim volunteer ambulance service, Michael E. Pollock turns 68… Real estate developer, Charles Kushner turns 67… Proto-punk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Jonathan Richman turns 67… Managing partner at Accretive LLC, previously the CEO of Warner Music Group, Edgar Bronfman Jr. turns 66… Film and stage actress, Debra Winger turns 66… Publisher and editor of the Jewish Journal, David Suissa turns 65… Real estate mogul and collector of modern and contemporary art, Aby J. Rosen turns 61… Executive assistant at Los Angeles-based FaceCake Marketing Technologies, Esther Bushey turns 60… Social entrepreneur and co-founder of non-profit Jumpstart, Jonathan Shawn Landres turns 49… Actress, television personality and author, Victoria Davey (Tori) Spelling turns 48… Author, actor and host of Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food,” Adam Richman turns 47… Assistant general counsel at CNN, Drew Shenkman turns 39… Senior director at FTI Consulting, Jeff Bechdel turns 35… Harriet L. Caplan…