👋 Good Wednesday morning!
Violence between Gaza and Israel intensified last night, with Hamas shooting hundreds of rockets towards the Tel Aviv metropolitan area for the first time since 2018. More than 1,000 rockets have been fired at Israel since the latest round of clashes began.
Rockets rained down nearly nonstop on much of Israel yesterday evening and continued overnight. The death toll in Israel rose to six, including an Indian foreign worker killed in Rishon Lezion and an Arab father and daughter killed near Lod.
The IDF continued heavy strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Health Ministry officials put the death toll in Gaza at 43 Palestinians, including 13 children.
A state of emergency was declared in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod, where violent clashes and riots continued yesterday, including Arabs setting fire to a synagogue in the city. Heavy clashes also raged in the mixed coastal city of Acre.
In a live address last night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Hamas would “pay a heavy price for its aggression” and warned Israelis that a campaign against Gaza will “take time.”
The White House condemned rocket attacks on Israel, and press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden’s support for “Israel’s security, for its legitimate right to defend itself and its people, is fundamental and will never waver.”
Biden sent a letter yesterday to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that addressed the “current situations.”
House Republicans are set to vote today for the second time on whether to remove Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) from the party’s third-ranking position.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken is slated to release the State Department’s 2020 International Religious Freedom Report later this morning.
Elliott Abrams talks Israel, Iran on the JI podcast
Elliott Abrams, the former special envoy on Iran and Venezuela during the Trump administration and a current fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, joined Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast” hosts Jarrod Bernstein and Rich Goldberg to discuss violence in Israel and negotiations with Iran.
Eye on Israel: “Is it Intifada 3.0? I don’t think so,” predicted Abrams of the current conflagration between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. “I think Hamas has gotten pretty much what it has wanted, and I don’t think that this will turn into another major war in Gaza. And I’m inclined to think things will quiet down a bit in Jerusalem as well.” Abrams suggested that Hamas is motivated at least in part by the cancellation of the Palestinian national elections by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last month. “Mahmoud Abbas cancels those Palestinian elections, and what does Hamas do to show, ‘Well, he’s doing nothing, but we’re here, we’re active, we’re leading the Palestinian people’?” Abrams asked. “They do what you see in the last few days in Israel. A lot of violent attacks.”
Regional turmoil: Abrams said that the violence in Israel puts the Arab countries that recently normalized relations with Israel via the Abraham Accords in a difficult situation. “It does put them in a tough spot,” he said. “And you’ve seen several of them make statements decrying the violence and asking Israel to make sure its police do not, any longer, go into East Jerusalem.” But he added that they ultimately want to see “Hamas defeated — so does Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO, the Palestinian Authority and Fatah leadership, whatever they say, because Hamas is their enemy.” The UAE, Bahrain and other nations are “judging Israel now. They’re wondering how are the Israelis going to handle this? Are they in a kind of crisis where they can’t make decisions? Are they unable to hit back the way they normally would? Is this going to be a defeat for the Israelis? If the Israelis come out of this looking weak, their attractiveness to the Arab governments as a friend is greatly diminished.”
Tehran talks: Abrams rejected the Biden administration’s suggestion that Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran failed. “It clearly didn’t fail,” he said. “Our view was that had President Trump won the election, had we been able to face Iran with four more years of the same and actually increasing sanctions, they would have had to make a deal, because of the condition their economy is in right now.” Tehran didn’t make a deal, Abrams suggested, because they were waiting to see who won the 2020 presidential election. Abrams laid out four potential options on Iran: “A successful negotiation with Iran… giving up, finally, the path to a nuclear weapon”; regime change in Tehran; Iran attaining nuclear capability; and the possibility that “someone steps in militarily.” He added: “I don’t think it’s the JCPOA or war. I think it’s the JCPOA or a tougher, better policy.”
Lightning round: Favorite Yiddish word? “Machatunim.” Favorite Jewish food? “Pot roast with kasha varnishkes.” Book recommendation? A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962by Alistair Horne. Favorite boss in government? “It’s a toss-up for me between George Shultz and George W. Bush.”
Listen to the full episode here, plus hear Abrams weigh in on John Kerry’s negotiating skills.
on the hill
Cruz to introduce anti-BDS amendment to bill countering Chinese tech
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) plans to introduce an anti-BDS amendment today to a bipartisan bill aimed at countering China through federal investment in technological development, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rodhas learned. Cruz’s amendment would deprioritize countries that “[take] actions to boycott, divest from or sanction Israel” in these technology development efforts.
Game plan: The Texas senator plans to introduce his amendment during a Senate Commerce Committee meeting to revise the Endless Frontier Act, which seeks to preserve the U.S.’s economic and geopolitical edge over China through more than $100 billion in additional funding for the National Science Foundation to fund research and development in critical technology areas.
What it does: The amendment would adopt the same definition of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions as was included in previous congressional legislation in 2015, to include “actions by states, non-member states of the United Nations, international organizations, or affiliated agencies of international organizations that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories.”
What it means: Outside of its specific impact on the legislation, the amendment appears designed to put Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee — and ultimately all Senate Democrats, should the amendment pass out of committee — on record regarding the BDS movement.
Fewer than 30 Virginians voted early in GOP governor race
Virginia Republicans made national headlines last month when a key committee voted against allowing a special voting period for Virginians who — for religious reasons — could not participate in the party’s nominating convention, which took place this past Saturday. The Republican Party of Virginia backtracked three days later, establishing an early voting period the day before the convention for people who observe the Sabbath on Saturday. After all the wrangling, just 20 to 30 people participated in the early voting period, a state GOP spokesperson told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch.
Broadening the base: The small number may have been due to timing: The decision to create a Friday voting period came after registration for the convention had closed, so anyone who did not sign up in the first place because of the barrier to voting was not able to sign up later. Still, the move represents a roadblock for Virginia Republicans, who have not won any statewide office since 2009 and who will need to recruit a broad coalition of voters to counter the state’s recent leftward shift. “There’s a large number of people in the party who want to shore up the base and get out more of the conservative Christian groups. They just forget that there are Orthodox Jews out there who are quite conservative, too,” said Ken Reid, who previously served as a Republican official in Loudoun County and now lives in Norfolk.
New coalitions: Despite this misstep, Republicans say they understand the need to diversify their ranks, given landslide Democratic victories in recent years. Jeffrey Dove, a Black Republican who ran twice for Congress in northern Virginia and is now running for a vacant House of Delegates seat in Manassas, said that the party’s selection of Glenn Youngkin — a former CEO of the Carlyle Group and a first-time political candidate — as its gubernatorial nominee is a promising sign. “He’s very interested in building coalitions in Virginia,” said Dove of Youngkin. “He was very interested in reaching out to communities that have been, I guess, underserved or not reached out to as much as they should have been by the Republican Party.”
In Trump’s shadow: With no voting record of his own, Republicans are hopeful that Youngkin can win over voters who were skeptical of previous Republican policies or candidates. “He’s a new face, so he didn’t have any baggage on immigration or any of the other issues,” noted Tom Davis, a Republican who represented northern Virginia in Congress for 14 years. Still, Youngkin has embraced the former president. In March, his campaign released an ad touting a comment Donald Trump made last year praising Youngkin’s performance at Carlyle and his stance on China. Yesterday, he received an official endorsement from Trump — which Youngkin avoided mentioning in a speech last night. Democrats, for their part, are attempting to connect Youngkin to Trump early on. “Glenn Youngkin has fully embraced Donald Trump and Corey Stewart’s dangerous extremism,” Democratic Party of Virginia spokesperson Manuel Bonder told JI, also referring to a former Senate candidate.
Winning with wokeness: Republicans also hope that criticisms of the emerging field of critical race theory will win back suburban voters who disliked Trump but may now be unhappy with public school curriculum changes that include a focus on the history of racism and white supremacy. “You have this kind of ‘woke’ ideology that really is just deeply offensive to a lot of people, whether you’re to the left or to the right,” said Ian Cummings, a Republican activist in Norfolk who was active in urging the Republican Party to enable Orthodox Jews to participate in the convention. Others, though, are skeptical such efforts will resonate with voters. “I have yet to see anybody other than card-carrying base Republicans be excited about the issue of ‘wokeness,’” said Quentin Kidd, dean of the College of Social Sciences at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va.
the new pew
Pew’s 2020 survey shows a diverse and divided American Jewry
The first major survey of American Jews since 2013 finds a population that is growing and increasingly diverse both religiously and politically — to the point that some American Jewish communities feel they have no connection to others, writes eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.
Background: Pew surveyed 4,718 U.S. adults who identify as Jewish, including 3,836 Jews by religion and 882 Jews of no religion, online and by mail from Nov. 19, 2019 to June 3, 2020. The survey, “Jewish Americans in 2020,” from the Pew Research Center, puts the Jewish population at 7.5 million, or 2.4% of the U.S. population, compared with 6.7 million, or 2.2% of the population, estimated in Pew’s “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” published in 2013. The 2013 study was received with distress by a number of leading academics and pundits who read it as an indication of apathy to Jewish life. Some see the new data as evidence that efforts to build Jewish community and identity outside the synagogue are working, while others see those efforts as fragile. The debate hinges on the question of how to measure Jewish vitality. “This is corroboration that the Jewish community is growing, not shrinking, and that there’s diversity in how people express their identity and where they come from,” said Len Saxe, director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University, and a consultant to Pew on “Jewish Americans in 2020.”
By the numbers: The survey, released yesterday, found that 92% of American Jews identify as white, while 8% say they identify with another ethnic group, including 1% who identify as Black, less than 1% who identify as Asian and several other groups and combinations of groups who comprise 1% or less of the total. This data shows a 1% increase in the population that identifies as non-white compared to the 2013 report. In 2019, the Jews of Color Field-Building Initiative estimated that 12-15% of the American Jewish population was made up of Jews of Color. Other estimates, including one by Saxe that put Hispanic Jews who identify as white at 6% and all other racial groups at 5%, and another published in the 2019 American Jewish Yearbook that indicates Jews of Color make up 6% of the population, are more in line with Pew’s figures.
💥 Rocket Reaction: Washington Post reporter Adam Taylor explains how Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system works and how Hamas rockets can still foil it. “Though the weapons are often crude and many lacked guidance systems, their sheer numbers and low cost are an advantage against Iron Dome.” [WashPost]
📊 Data Dive: In The New Statesman, Ben Walker examines if the U.K. Labour Party has won back Jewish supporters after the ouster of former leader Jeremy Corbyn. “It’s hard to say with certainty whether Labour is recovering support among Jewish people. It may be that the level of local affluence is partly behind these shifts, or differences in turnout.” [NewStatesman]
🕊️ Limited Peace: Washington Post columnist David Ignatius suggests that a range of Mideast countries are embracing quiet back-channel diplomacy, but that “the outlier in this diplomatic revival is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… Officials told me even the UAE, the most forward-leaning of the Arab states, warned Israel that police actions in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque would embolden Hamas extremists.” [WashPost]
Around the Web
✍️ On the List: The Treasury Department announced sanctions on seven Hezbollah-linked individuals, including the director of the terror organization’s Central Finance Unit.
☢️ Uranium Update: The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran is enriching uranium to 63% at its facility in Natanz, higher than the 60% that was previously announced.
🇮🇷 Daylight: A French Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that nuclear talks in Vienna are progressing, but that “major disagreements remain.”
🎓 Campus Beat: The Maine Attorney General’s Office is investigating anti-Israel graffiti on the Bates College campus as a potential hate crime.
👨 New Org: The newly launched Forum for American Leadership has tapped Gabriel Noronha, who worked on Iran issues at the State Department until January 2021, as its executive director.
💸 Startup Nation: Cisco is acquiring Israeli communication technology startup Sedona in what is estimated to be a $100 million deal.
💰 Big Buy: Israeli-founded startup Wandera has been purchased by Apple device management company Jamf for $400 million.
💱 Digital Dollars: Israel’s central bank is considering issuing digital currency, several years after it scrapped initial plans to do so.
🤝 It’s a Deal: Production company Anonymous Content has signed a first-look agreement with the Israel-based Kneller Agency.
📚 Book Shelf: The New York Times reviews a new book, Letters to Camondo, which traces the history of a set of Japanese carvings owned by the French Jewish Camondo family, who were all murdered in Auschwitz.
👬 Strange Bedfellows: In his recently released book, Seth Rogen describes a conversation with Tom Cruise in which Cruise defended Louis Farrakhan and described him as “my friend.”
🕯️ Remembering: Hollywood legend Norman Lloyd, born Norman Perlmutter, died at 106.
Song of the Day
Israeli singer Hanan Ben-Ari released a new song this week, titled “Dreaming Like Joseph,” which references a wide range of biblical characters.
One of the earliest women in the comic-book industry, she escaped Nazi-occupied Austria on the Kindertransport, Lily Renée Willheim Phillips turns 100… Composer, singer songwriter, and record producer, Burt Bacharach turns 93… Philanthropist and co-founder of Home Depot, Bernard “Bernie” Marcus turns 92… Israeli agribusiness entrepreneur and real estate investor, he was chairman and owner of Carmel Agrexco, Gideon Bickel turns 77… World renowned architect and master planner for the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, Daniel Libeskind turns 75… Former member of the California State Senate and California State Assembly, Lois Wolk turns 75… Chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News, Michael Isikoff turns 69… Former Washington correspondent for the Miami Herald covering the Pentagon, James Martin Rosen turns 66… Former member of the Knesset for the Meretz party, Ilan Gilon turns 65… Professor at Emory University School of Law, Michael Jay Broyde turns 57… Actress known for her role as Lexi Sterling on “Melrose Place,” Jamie Michelle Luner turns 50… Founder of strategic communications and consulting firm Hiltzik Strategies, Matthew Hiltzik turns 49… Communications officer in the D.C. office of Open Society Foundations, Jonathan E. Kaplan turns 49… First-ever Jewish governor of Colorado when he was elected in 2019, previously a member of Congress, Jared Polis turns 46… Principal at New Heights Communications, Joshua Cohen turns 38… Author of Politico‘s Morning Tech newsletter, Alexandra S. Levine turns 31… Director of member relations at the National Association of Manufacturers, Amanda Schechter turns 30… Civics outreach manager at Google, Erica Arbetter turns 29… Haifa-born actress, Odeya Rush turns 24…