👋 Good Thursday morning!
Rocket fire from Gaza toward Israel continued yesterday, as violent clashes between Arabs and Jews in a handful of Israeli towns intensified.
Two Israelis were killed yesterday: an IDF soldier hit by an anti-tank missile, and a 6-year-old boy killed by a rocket strike in Sderot, while dozens were wounded. The Gaza Health Ministry says 83 people have been killed in the Strip so far, including 17 children and multiple senior Hamas figures.
Hamas officials reportedly told Russia the group is ready to enter a cease-fire with Israel on a “mutual basis.” But at an Israeli security cabinet meeting last night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that Israel has no interest in an immediate cease-fire, and said the operation could last another week.
Israeli Arabs and Jewish extremists clashed in Bat Yam, Acre and Tiberias last night as local violence spiraled out of control, with a Jewish mob in Bat Yam beating an Arab passerby and a group of Arabs attacking a Jewish man in Acre. Hundreds of people were arrested.
Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef all issued statements forcefully condemning the violence. Rivlin warned of a “civil war,” Yosef forbade people to “take the law into one’s hands” and Netanyahu vowed to “restore calm” and “eliminate anarchy.”
President Joe Biden told reporters yesterday that he spoke with Netanyahu, reiterated that “Israel has a right to defend itself” and said he hopes violence will end “sooner than later.” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin conveyed “ironclad support” in a conversation with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
In remarks to reporters yesterday, Secretary of State Tony Blinken — who also spoke with Netanyahu — drew “a very clear and absolute distinction between a terrorist organization, Hamas, that is indiscriminately raining down rockets – in fact, targeting civilians – and Israel’s response defending itself that is targeting the terrorists who are raining down rockets on Israel.”
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel and Palestinian affairs Hady Amr is slated to arrive in Israel today to meet with both Israeli and Palestinian officials amid the ongoing violence.
House Republicans voted yesterday to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from her leadership position in the party.
Republican members of Congress questioned former Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday about leaked comments from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Kerry denied ever speaking with Zarif about Israeli strikes in Syria: “I never had a discussion with him about Israel with respect to attacks or anything. No. I told you. That’s the end of the story.”
Eight candidates in the New York City mayoral Democratic primary will face off in a televised debate tonight at 7 p.m. ET.
Divided House Democrats plan dueling speeches on Israel-Gaza conflict
As divisions among Democratic lawmakers over the escalating violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories continued to sharpen, mainstream and left-wing House Democrats set plans for competing speeches on the House floor this evening, sources familiar with the plans told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Speaking up: The effort from moderate Democrats — in defense of Israel’s actions — is being organized by Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA). Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Ted Deutch (D-FL) Brad Schneider (D-IL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY) are currently slated to participate. The counter effort is being organized by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), who has been an outspoken advocate of conditioning U.S. military aid to Israel.
Democracy defense: Several of the moderate Democrats who plan to deliver speeches today have spoken out in recent days against left-wing colleagues critical of Israel’s actions. “There are some around the world appearing to defend this onslaught by Hamas, a terrorist organization recognized as such by the international community,” said Deutch. “Some even try to justify the terrorists’ attacks. Let me say that again, there are elected officials who defend a terrorist group sworn to the destruction of the State of Israel,” he added. “When anyone, including any one of my colleagues, questions my loyalty, I remind them that I am a son of a World War II veteran who fought the Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge. We defended democracy and fought evil. That’s what we do when we support Israel as it battles Hamas terrorists.”
Human shields: In remarks to the UJA-Federation of New York last night, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) accused Hamas of hiding behind human shields. “What Hamas is doing is clear. It’s a terrorist attack. And what they’re also committing is war crimes by trying to hide behind civilian individuals. It’s a war crime in that regard. So we’ve got to speak out in that regard and let the people of Israel know that we stand with them,” said Meeks, who represents Queens. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted earlier yesterday that “human shields” are a “myth,” linking to a thread that criticized Israeli air strikes.
Standing his ground: Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), who withstood some backlash online for a tweet on Monday criticizing the Hamas rocket attacks, defended his position during the UJA event. “The moment I sent out a statement denouncing the rocket fire from Hamas, I was swiftly denounced by BDS extremists as a white supremacist, as a supporter of apartheid and ethnic cleansing and genocide — terms that have been stripped of the original and proper meaning,” said Torres, who represents the Bronx. Read the full text of Torres’ remarks here.
Letter writing: Pocan, along with Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL), released a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken yesterday calling on him to pressure Israel to halt pending evictions in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Bustan. Signatories to the letter included Omar and Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Gerald Connolly (D-VA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), André Carson (D-IN), Peter Welch (D-VT), Jesús García (D-IL), Cori Bush (D-MO), Judy Chu (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Henry Johnson (D-GA).
Bonus: Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) told JI yesterday: “It’s heartbreaking to see the escalation of violence in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. And I’m hopeful that the parties will get back to the negotiating table so there can be peace for the people in that region and I pray that they come sooner than later.”
This NY congressman says Democratic socialism and support for Israel don’t contradict
As Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) sees it, the Jewish and Dominican communities in his diverse Manhattan district of Washington Heights have a lot in common. Both are diasporas: The Jewish community keeps close tabs on happenings in Israel, while Dominicans remain closely connected to their Caribbean homeland. “Both are very family-oriented and religious. Both, of course, contribute back home,” Espaillat, who came to the U.S. as a child from the Dominican Republic, told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in a recent interview. “Of course, they love politics back home, they follow it like a national sport. And as a result, I think because of those similarities, we have been able to build bridges.”
In the Heights: When he was elected to Congress in 2016, after 20 years in the New York State Assembly and state Senate, Espaillat, 66, joined a high-level effort to create ties between the Jewish and Latino communities. Espaillat said members of the Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus, of which he is the co-chair, are the “guardians of that good relationship.” The caucus will soon officially relaunch in the 117th Congress, with co-chairs Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA).
Socialist mentor: In recent years, the Democratic Socialists of America has exercised its growing clout in city politics by urging candidates in New York to condemn Israel and pledge not to travel to the Jewish state. “I haven’t felt any pressure” from the DSA, said Espaillat, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. But, he pointed out, he is not an outsider to the group: “One of my mentors in college was Michael Harrington, who was the founder of that movement,” Espaillat explained. “I know the philosophy and the backbone of that movement, much of which I agree with, but I don’t think that being there and supporting Israel, or being against war and nuclear armaments — I don’t think that that’s mutually exclusive. I think you can be both.”
Disarming Iran: Espaillat was not in Congress in 2015 when the body voted on the nuclear agreement with Iran, but he said he is urging the Biden administration to renegotiate certain aspects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “I also think that this is a great opportunity to strengthen the previous agreement and to include any elements or provisions that were not included the first time,” Espaillat said. “The ballistic missile piece is one, and financing terrorist groups is another.” Unlike other members of the Progressive Caucus, Espaillat did not suggest that Washington should move more quickly or offer more concessions to Tehran. But he suggested his stance is not at odds with progressives. “For peace to come, there must be a disarmament, and that includes, of course, the nuclear arsenal that Iran is trying to build,” Espaillat noted. “I think that’s very progressive.”
Bipartisan backing: Espaillat “understands the importance of maintaining strong ties between the Hispanic and Jewish communities, and he does know that those two categories are not mutually exclusive,” said former Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who was one of the Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus’s original co-chairs when it was created in 2011. “From his first days in Congress and even before, he refused to let groups drive a wedge between our two communities.”
Cruz, Gallagher to introduce bill blocking de-recognition of Israeli authority over Golan Heights
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) are set to introduce legislation today that seeks to block any attempt to withdraw U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod has learned.
Backstory: Israel has claimed control over the 400-square-mile territory, which lies on its border with Syria, since the end of the 1967 Six Day War. Syria also claims the territory as its own. For decades, both Republican and Democratic administrations declined to recognize Israeli authority over the Golan Heights, a policy former President Donald Trump reversed in a March 2019 tweet.
Hands tied: The Cruz-Gallagher bill would bar any attempt by the State Department to “prepare, propose, draft, review or promulgate” any sort of policy move that would affect U.S. recognition of the Golan Heights, something the Biden administration has not expressed any intent to do. “As a practical matter, the control of the Golan in that situation I think remains of real importance to Israel’s security,” Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in February. “Legal questions are something else and over time if the situation were to change in Syria, that’s something we’d look at, but we are nowhere near that.”
Round two: While Trump’s decision was praised by GOP lawmakers at the time, the legislation is unlikely to garner any Democratic support. In 2019, Cruz and Gallagher attempted to pass a bill codifying U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Neither bill passed out of committee, nor gained any Democratic supporters. Cruz’s bill picked up 24 GOP cosponsors and Gallagher’s picked up 58.
Quotable: “The Golan Heights provide Israel with defensible borders and serve as a key buffer between Israel and the chaos in Syria,” Gallagher told Jewish Insider. “At a time when Israel — our most important ally in the Middle East — is literally under attack, we should do everything in our power to ensure they can defend themselves. Ensuring we continue to recognize their sovereignty over the Golan Heights is the most basic way we can do so.”
Bonus: Forty-four Senate Republicans signed a letter to President Joe Biden organized by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) urging him not to ease sanctions against Iran and emphasizing that Tehran is a major supporter of Hamas.“We call on you to immediately end negotiations with Iran, and make clear that sanctions relief will not be provided. Doing so would demonstrate a firm commitment to our closest ally in the region and to our own security interests,” the letter reads. Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) were the only Republicans who did not sign.
📚 Novel Narratives: In The New York Review of Books, Corey Robin explores the “uncanny convergence” of the Jewish writers and thinkers Hannah Arendt and Philip Roth. “Arendt was a real presence for Roth, and the unexpected convergence between their biographies and concerns, particularly regarding Jewish questions, is as uncanny as the doubles that populate Roth’s novels.” [NYRB]
👬 Strengthening Identity: In The Times, comedian David Baddiel and his brother, author Ivor Baddiel, reflect on their fraternal bond, their upbringing and their Jewish identities. “Jewishness is part of my identity and a big part of Ivor’s identity,” David wrote. “The growing threat of racism against Jews, allied with what I see as a neglect in the antiracist conversation about this, has strengthened that identity for me.” [TheTimes]
☢️ Change Urged: Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster argue in Real Clear Politics that the Biden administration must reverse course on Iran. “Maximum pressure, not conciliation, holds the best chance to force the Iranian regime to choose either behaving like a normal nation or facing economic ruin.” [RCP]
Around the Web
🛬 Grounded: United, Delta and American Airlines canceled flights between the U.S. and Israel amid ongoing unrest, while El Al vowed to continue operations.
🛢️ Offline: Chevron temporarily shut down its Tamar gas field off the coast of Israel at the request of the Israeli Energy Ministry due to ongoing rocket fire.
✍️ Op-Ed: In The New York Times, Peter Beinart argues that Jews should recognize the Palestinian right of return since “no people in human history have clung as stubbornly to the dream of return as have Jews.”
🤳 Tweet Tweet: Gal Gadot posted a message on social media praying for “this unimaginable hostility to end” and was met with a firestorm of backlash.
👍 Passed: An anti-BDS amendment proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to a bill countering China was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee yesterday in a voice vote.
⌚ Bad Time: Aaron David Miller and Daniel Kurtzer suggest that clashes in Israel are an unwelcome distraction for Biden, who is eager to focus on Iran, China, and climate change.
🗳️ In the Race: Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad filed to run in the country’s upcoming presidential elections.
🤝 Mending Fences: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tehran has “always been ready for close ties with Saudi Arabia” following a series of Iraqi-brokered meetings.
💸 Lost Funds: A coalition of Congolese and international organizations said the Congo lost nearly $2 billion in revenue in deals with sanctioned Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler.
👮 Apprehended: German police arrested more than a dozen people for throwing stones at a synagogue, starting a fire at a Holocaust memorial and burning an Israeli flag.
⚖️ So Ordered: A European Union court ruled that the European Commission must consider a petition to ban imports from Israeli settlements.
🔎 Looking Inward: The Department of Homeland Security is creating a unit within its intelligence branch to focus specifically on domestic terrorism.
👩 Campaign Chatter: Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is expected to enter the race to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis, released a video teasing a June 1 campaign launch.
📈 Startup Nation: SimilarWeb, the Israeli company that provides web analytics, opened on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday at a valuation of $1.8 billion.
💸 Big Debut: Israeli fintech company Nayax raised more than $210 million at a valuation of $1 billion in the largest-ever IPO for a tech company on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
🤣 Funny Girl: The New York Times spotlights comic Hannah Einbinder, daughter of SNL alum Laraine Newman, ahead of the release of her HBO Max series “Hack.”
🕯️ Remembering: Former Rep. Lester Wolff (D-NY), who served eight terms in the House of Representatives and was the oldest living former House member, died at 102.
Song of the Day
Israeli singers Avraham Tal and Benaia Barabi have released a new song, “Who Wouldn’t Come?”
South African lawyer and banker, Sir Sydney Lipworth QC turns 90… Actress Zohra Lampert turns 84… Actor and producer, Harvey Keitel turns 82… Ophthalmologist in South Florida, Dr. Joel Sandberg turns 78… Chief scientific officer for COVID-19 Response at the Health and Human Services Department, David A. Kessler turns 70… Founder and former CEO of LRN, a legal research, ethics and compliance management firm, Dov Seidman turns 57… Retired NFL defensive lineman, Josh Heinrich Taves, a/k/a Josh Heinrich, turns 49… Ice hockey player, she won a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics and a silver medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics, Sara Ann DeCosta turns 44… U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) turns 44… Chief community and Jewish life officer at The Jewish Federations of North America, Sarah Eisenman turns 42… U.K. Labour Party MP, in February 2019 she left the Labour Party in protest of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, and is now managing director at Edelman UK, Luciana Berger turns 40… Co-founder of Asana, Justin Rosenstein turns 38… Retired NFL offensive lineman, Brian de la Puente turns 36… Actress, writer, producer and director, Lena Dunham turns 35… Hannah Sirdofsky turns 34… Co-founder of Manna Tree Partners, a private equity firm focused on healthy food, Gabrielle “Ellie” Rubenstein turns 33… Analyst in business operations at Tel Aviv-based Zoomin Software, Galit Krifcher turns 28… Fellow at the Public Interest Fellowship, Dore Lev Feith turns 25… Director of external affairs at the Manhattan Institute, Jesse Martin Arm turns 25… Program manager at Jigsaw, Raquel Saxe… Former Israel director for J Street, Yael Patir…