👋 Good Thursday morning!
In their fourth call in two weeks, President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday that “he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” applying public pressure to Israel for the first time since fighting began.
In a public statement shortly afterward, Netanyahu pushed back, stating: “I am determined to continue this operation until its goal is achieved: to bring the quiet and security back to you, the citizens of Israel.”
Nevertheless, the rate of both rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and IDF strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza slowed over the past 24 hours — though they did not stop — and multiple reportsindicate a cease-fire brokered by Egypt could come into effect as early as tomorrow.
Former President George W. Bush told Fox News yesterday that “what I think you’re seeing playing out is Iranian influence targeted toward Israel, and trying to break up alliances that were formed in the previous administration called the Abraham Accords.”
The House Foreign Affairs Committee will receive a classified briefing from the Biden administration today on intelligence from Israel and Gaza.
Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog and educator and Israel Prize winner Miriam Peretz are the two candidates who will face off on June 2, when the 120 members of Knesset will vote for the next president of Israel.
Biden will sign an anti-hate crimes package into law today, which includes the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act. Elana Broitman, the Jewish Federations of North America’s senior vice president for public affairs told JI that the legislation “is more critical than ever” amid a surge in hate crimes and violence.
The House voted 252-175 yesterday to establish a commission to investigate the January 6 breach of the Capitol, with every Democrat and 35 Republicans supporting the move. But with both House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell opposing the commission, it now faces an uphill battle.
Apollo co-founder Josh Harris plans to step down from his day-to-day role at the private equity firm and will focus on his own investments.
on the record
Pinpointing where Democrats are on Israel
Pro-Israel Democrats are grappling with how to reconcile widespread support for the Jewish state with vocal and occasionally misleading attacks from an outspoken faction of the party amid escalating violence between Israel and Hamas. In recent weeks, a group of House members critical of Israel have amped up their rhetoric, accusing Israel of “apartheid” in sharply worded social media statements while renewing calls for conditioned U.S. military assistance and seemingly downplaying threats from Hamas. Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch, Matthew Kassel and Marc Rod spoke to leading Democratic figures about the party’s current state of play on the issue.
Stalwart support: Longtime pro-Israel advocates in the party argue that support for the Jewish state remains strong even as social media platforms like Twitter appear to have empowered the Democratic Party’s more extreme Israel critics. “I’m not overly concerned about where the House Democratic Caucus is on Israel,” former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), who chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015, said in an interview with Jewish Insider on Wednesday. “They support U.S.-Israeli relations.” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), a long-standing pro-Israel stalwart, echoed that view. “We have a small group of loud voices,” she said. “The overwhelming majority of Democrats in the nation, and Democrats in Congress, are strongly supportive of Israel, of the U.S.-Israel relationship, of Israel remaining a Jewish and democratic state.”
By the numbers: Recent polling has contributed to the impression that Democratic support for Israel may be diminishing, as two separate surveys released yesterday appeared to suggest. While a plurality of registered Democratic voters — 36% — said they sympathized with both Israelis and Palestinians, 34% of respondents were either unfamiliar with or had no opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a Morning Consult/Politico survey of 1,992 voters. Moreover, the poll revealed that 18% of Democratic respondents sympathize more with Palestinians and 12% with Israelis. Those numbers were further underscored in an Economist/YouGov poll published yesterday, indicating that 35% of Democratic voters were equally sympathetic to Israelis and Palestinians while another 23% of Democrats sympathize with Palestinians and 16% with Israelis.
Interpretation: Despite the variety of opinion, the new polls simply demonstrate that more Democrats now harbor positive attitudes toward both the Israeli and Palestinian causes, views that dovetail with Democratic support for a two-state solution, according to Tamara Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. “Being an ally of Israel,” Wittes told JI, “doesn’t mean, based on the polling data we have, that Americans don’t care about Palestinians or their aspirations or their rights.”
More vocal: Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), a leader among Democrats skeptical of Israel who organized an hour of House floor speeches criticizing Israel’s policies and behavior toward Palestinians last week, claimed that an increasing number of Democrats in Congress are siding with him on the issue. “You’re seeing more members who are raising questions,” Pocan told reporters on Wednesday. “Last week was the first time we filled an entire hour — we had more people that wanted to speak than even could.” Digitally savvy Israel critics such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) — all of whom were elected in the last few years — have also become adept at using social media to disseminate their views.
Healthy debate?: Joel Rubin, the executive director of the American Jewish Congress who served as director of Jewish outreach for Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) 2020 presidential campaign, said he has been concerned by some of the charged rhetoric used by progressive Democrats on social media, particularly amid rising incidents of antisemitism. “I think we’ve kind of lost our way a little bit in the language on this,” Rubin said in an interview with JI, noting that some progressive Israel critics are “pushing away” potential allies as they rush to denounce the Jewish state. “That’s distressing.” But while the conversation may be somewhat raw at the moment, Rubin is optimistic that Democrats can ultimately find room for productive debate as intraparty disagreement over Israel comes to a climax. “It’s always been a fascinating and intriguing tension point,” he said. “But it’s healthy in a lot of ways.”
Bonus: Pocan also argued yesterday that Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system should remove the need for the IDF to launch strikes in response to Hamas rocket attacks, as it largely prevents rockets from striking Israel. “I’ve always supported the Iron Dome. Because the idea is when a missile comes in, if you take it out, no one’s been killed on either side, and there’s deescalation,” Pocan told reporters. “If you use it for that purpose, then you still send 20 times the number of missiles back, that’s not the intention.”
GOP Sen. Todd Young backpedals on call for Gaza cease-fire
Days after issuing a bipartisan statement calling on Israel and Hamas to reach a cease-fire “quickly,” Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) backed away from his initial position on Wednesday, calling for Israel to take out Hamas’s infrastructure, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Buying time: “Senator Young shares his colleagues’ concerns about a premature cease-fire or one that occurs on Hamas’s terms,” a spokesperson for the senator explained to Jewish Insider. “Hamas’s infrastructure and tunnel network in Gaza is far deeper and more sophisticated than many previously understood… As such, it is clear that Israel needs more time to deal with the threat it is facing. The only way to create an enduring cease-fire is to deal with the threat they are facing and reestablish deterrence by taking out Hamas’s terror infrastructure.”
Flashback: Young and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who lead the Senate Foreign Relations Committee subcommittee that oversees Middle East issues, issued a statement on Sunday saying that “both sides must recognize that too many lives have been lost and must not escalate the conflict further.” Young was the only Senate Republican to voice support for a cease-fire.
GOP view: In a press conference yesterday at which Young also spoke, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) accused President Joe Biden of undermining Israel by encouraging a cease-fire in a call in which Biden “condescended and lectured to Prime Minister Netanyahu and urged him to stop defending Israel against the terrorists,” Cruz said. Yesterday morning, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) also expressed opposition to U.S. calls for a cease-fire. “This is something that needs to be settled on the ground in Israel and with its neighbors,” Zeldin said. “I’m not going to stand here and tell Israel to let down its guard one bit right now while under a barrage of attacks.”
Read more here.
Bonus: Bloomberg’s Eli Lake argues that the Biden administration needs to take a more active role in building up Palestinian civil society and removing Hamas’s influence or else “the end of the fighting will just be a prelude to the next war, as Hamas replenishes its rockets and missiles in preparation for its never-ending quest to destroy the Jewish state.”
in the race
Dave Harden’s quest from the Middle East to the Eastern Shore
Dave Harden represented the United States abroad as a government official promoting U.S. ideals around the globe for more than two decades. After watching the riot unfold at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, he decided he wanted to put diplomacy aside and represent Maryland in Congress — his first foray into partisan politics. “My son was overseas during this attack — with the military in the Middle East — and that attack deflated our young men and women that are trying to defend America. It was horrific, what happened on January 6,” Harden told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutchin a recent interview. “[Rep.] Andy Harris (R-MD), who is a strong supporter of [former President Donald] Trump, helped fuel the insurrection, and I decided that Andy Harris had to leave.”
Back home: Harris, who currently represents Maryland’s 1st Congressional District, was one of the leading voices on the Hill supporting investigations into claims of election fraud soundly rejected by nonpartisan election officials and dozens of court rulings. “It’s disingenuous for Mr. Harden to claim I sided with rioters on January 6th, as I condemned the violence then and do now,” Harris told JI in a statement. Harris, the sole Republican member of the Maryland delegation, is not unpopular in his district; in November he defeated a Democratic challenger by 27 percentage points. Yet experts predict that the state’s congressional districts will be redrawn so that the 1st District — a massive, 3,600-square-mile district that includes Maryland’s entire Eastern Shore and some Baltimore exurbs — will become solidly Democratic, potentially giving Harden an edge.
War stories: After serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana, Harden’s tenure with USAID took him across the Middle East and Asia, including 10 cumulative years in Israel. For Harden, Middle East foreign policy is not a theoretical matter, or a way to prove his partisan bona fides. As violence again flares in the region, Harden can recall living through previous wars between Israel and Hamas. “During the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, our family went to the bomb shelter more times in a single month than I did during my 17 months in Iraq,” Harden, who first arrived in the region in 2005 as deputy mission director at USAID’s West Bank and Gaza Mission, told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2016.
Together forever: Present fighting aside, Harden noted that power dynamics in the region have shifted in Israel’s favor in recent years. “I am really happy about the Abraham Accords,” he said. “But at the same time, the Palestinians are going to want a future. You can’t get divorced. That’s the problem: Israelis and Palestinians are not getting divorced. They have to live together forever.” And he urged the White House to get more involved in pushing for peace. “I think the Biden administration really needs to double down on getting people out there and on the ground and engaged,” he said. “They don’t have an ambassador. They don’t have an assistant secretary of state [for Near Eastern affairs], they don’t have a consul general, they don’t have a USAID mission director. These things make it very difficult to manage and de-risk the immediacy of the conflict.”
Status quo: Harden’s views on the Middle East are complex, rooted in his years of working directly with both Israelis and Palestinians on crucial issues like economic development. But in attempting to stake out his own position on the conflict, he avoided choosing sides on one of the more heated debates happening on Capitol Hill: regulating aid to Israel to pressure the country to pause settlement construction and cease certain military operations. When asked whether Congress has a role to play in pressuring Israel on West Bank settlement construction, Harden did not offer a direct answer. He called it an “extremely thorny question,” and said that “having uninformed, not nuanced answers probably doesn’t help anybody.”
🗳️ Ballot Battle: The New York Times’ Ellen Barry looks at the teenage activists in Massachusetts bolstering progressive candidates and legislators like Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) — and their recent disappointment in Markey over his position on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. The teenagers “carried out ambitious digital organizing, using social media to conjure up an in-person work force — ‘an army of 16-year-olds,’ a political veteran told the Times, who can ‘do anything on the internet.’” [NYTimes]
👨💼 Missing Man: Politico’s Nahal Toosi reports that pressure is growing on President Joe Biden over the still-unfilled position of U.S. ambassador to Israel as fighting between the IDF and Hamas rages on. And the White House is hearing plenty from groups and individuals who are split over their support for the two leading candidates: Tom Nides and former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL). [Politico]
🌴 Paradise Lost: Usually a relative oasis from Israel’s wars, Tel Aviv has been pushed into the firing line in recent weeks, reports The Washington Post’s Shira Rubin. The rockets lobbed at the city and its suburbs, Israel’s most densely populated area, have come as a shock, disrupting the daily lives of its citizens: “On Saturday night alone, more rockets were fired at the Tel Aviv area than during all of the 50-day Israel-Gaza war in 2014, according to Maj. Gen. Uri Gordin, who leads Israel’s Home Front Command.” [WashPost]
🙅♀️ No Joke: In a wide-ranging interview with New York Times film critic A.O. Scott, comedian Sarah Silverman pushed back on Scott’s 2005 criticism that she “falls back on her ethnic identity as a way of claiming ready-made outsider status.” Silverman said the claim fell into “the actual problem with this gas in the air that is anti-Semitism, especially on, I hate to say it, the left. It’s assuming that Jews are not to be worried about and do not merit allyship.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
💥 Northern Front: The IDF fired on targets in Lebanon yesterday after four missiles were shot at Israel from the country; two fell into the sea and no damage was caused by the other two.
🙅♂️ No Again: The U.S. once again yesterday rejected efforts in the U.N. Security Council, this time initiated by France, to issue a resolution on the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.
🛫 Quick Trip: Foreign ministers from Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are traveling to Israel today to discuss a potential cease-fire and express support for Israel.
🤝 Pay it Forward: The family of Yigal Yehoshua, a Jewish man murdered by an Arab mob in Lod last week, donated his organs, including to an Arab woman awaiting a kidney for five years.
🤳 Online Hate: Facebook set up a 24/7 “special operations center” to curb misinformation, hate speech and incitement on the platform relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
📰 In the News: The editorial board of The Boston Globe called for the U.S. to begin conditioning aid to Israel.
🚓 Crime Time: Los Angeles Police are investigating a potential hate crime against Jews by a pro-Palestinian mob outside a restaurant in the city’s Beverly Grove neighborhood this week.
☢️ Let’s Make a Deal: A European Union official said he is “quite sure there will be a final agreement” on Iran’s nuclear program as negotiators began a new round of talks in Vienna.
🏆 Next Stop November: Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, part of a growing group of progressive DAs, soundly defeated his Democratic primary opponent on Tuesday.
⚖️ In Court: A Canadian university lecturer will stand trial in France for what prosecutors allege was his role in a 1980 synagogue bombing in Paris that killed four people.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged support for the British Jewish community amid an uptick in antisemitic attacks, including an alleged car-ramming by a vehicle draped in a Palestinian flag.
✈️ Sky Buy: Businessman Kenny Rozenberg received Israeli government approval to join his son, Eli, in holding a controlling stake in El Al.
💰 Big Get: Venture capital firm 83North announced it raised $550 million for its sixth fund.
💸 Seed Capital: Goldman Sachs has reportedly invested in Thrive Capital, the venture capital firm founded by Josh Kushner.
💵 Networking: Alex Taub and Michael Schonfeld’s professional networking platform Upstream has raised $2.75 million in seed funding.
📺 Teaching Tolerance: The Paley Center for Media kicked off its efforts to counter antisemitism yesterday with a panel on the “media’s role in identifying, explaining and combating antisemitism.”
🕯️ Remembering: Sol Arker, a New York-based affordable housing advocate, died at 73. Psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Stern, the former head of Hollywood’s film rating board, died at 96.
Gif of the Day
Israeli comedian Tom Aharon issued his own English-language response to the recent claims by “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver that Israel is committing war crimes: “I would hope to someday have just a fraction of a white man’s confidence when I’m talking about things that happen thousands of miles from where I live.”
CEO at Kings’ Care — A Safe Place, operator of multiple drug and alcohol rehabilitation and treatment centers, Ilene Leiter turns 78… Canadian businesswoman, she served in the Ontario Assembly and in the Canadian House of Commons, Elinor Caplan turns 77… Former member of the New York State Assembly, Ellen Jaffee turns 77… Former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Connecticut’s 2nd district, he was born in a DP camp in Germany after WWII, Sam Gejdenson turns 73… Chagrin Falls, Ohio attorney, Robert Charles Rosenfeld turns 72… EVP and CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York for the past 36 years, he is set to retire next month, Michael S. Miller turns 72… Seamstress and weaver, Bernice Ann Penn Venable turns 72… Producer and writer who has worked on “Saturday Night Live,” PBS’ “Great Performances” and “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” Alan Zweibel turns 71… U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) turns 70… Former director of international affairs, policy and planning at the Conference of Presidents, following 12 years at the ADL, Michael Alan Salberg turns 69… Professor at Tulane University, former president of the Aspen Institute and former CEO of CNN, Walter Isaacson turns 69… Born in upstate N.Y. as Michael Scott Bornstein, author and former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., he was then a deputy minister and a member of Knesset for the centrist Kulanu party, Michael Oren turns 66…
Chief legal affairs anchor for ABC News and the founder of Mediaite, Dan Abrams turns 55… NYC location scout and unit production manager for films and tv commercials, David Brotsky turns 55… EVP of Resolute Consulting, Ami Copeland turns 49… Emmy Award-winning singer and songwriter, Rachel Platten turns 40… Manager of privacy issues for Amazon’s state public policy team, Philip Justin “PJ” Hoffman turns 40… Program manager for cultural and civic vitality at the Michigan-based William Davidson Foundation, Vadim Avshalumov turns 36… Founder and CEO of Berkeley, California-based Caribou Biosciences, a genome engineering company, Rachel Haurwitz, Ph.D. turns 36… Legislative director for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Lauren D. Wolman turns 35… Assistant director in the Washington regional office of AJC Global, Susan Sloan turns 35… VP of content production at Austin-based digital agency Harris Media, Josh Canter turns 29… Miss Israel 2014, now a legal intern at a Tel Aviv law firm, Doron Matalon turns 28… American University student in the class of 2022, previously national chair of the High School Democrats of America, Aylon Berger turns 21… Conservative political activist and a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Kyle Kashuv turns 20…