👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In Israel over the weekend, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid moved closer to an agreement to form a unity government after Bennett decided that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be unable to form a government. In this scenario, the two would rotate the premiership, with Bennett serving as prime minister first and Lapid as foreign minister.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s Likud Party, citing the country’s Basic Laws, pushed back on the possibility of Bennett serving first, an effort that was rejected by President Reuven Rivlin’s office.
Voters head to the polls today in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District where Democrat Melanie Stansbury and Republican Mark Moores are facing off to replace former Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM), who was confirmed as secretary of the interior in March. Polls close at 7 p.m. local time.
On Friday afternoon, President Joe Biden released a statement calling recent antisemitic attacks “despicable, unconscionable, [and] un-American,” noting that the Justice Department will be “deploying all of the tools at its disposal to combat hate crimes.”
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Bill Hagerty (R-TN) are in Israel this week. following the recent war in Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Graham on Monday.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also visiting Israel this week. Pompeo attended a goodbye party on Monday for outgoing Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, who will be replaced by David Barnea, deputy Mossad head for the last two years.
Ben Rhodes debates Iran deal, sanctions on ‘Limited Liability Podcast’
Former White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes joined co-hosts Richard Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein on Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast” for a lively discussion on the 2015 Iran deal, the state of partisan politics, and his own definition of Zionism. Rhodes is out with a new book today titled After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made.
Ed note: We included some highlights from the episode below, but the hour-long conversation is worth listening to in full. You can find that here, along with a complete transcript of the show.
Hindsight: Rhodes called a controversial Holocaust reference in a 2009 speech by then-President Barack Obama in Cairo “a mistake.” The reference came during Obama’s remarks about Israel. Critics at the time argued it implied Israel’s claim was a legacy of the Holocaust, despite historic claims preceding it. The reference, Rhodes said, was meant to confront Holocaust denial and explain Israel’s concern for security. “That was a totally fair and accurate criticism, to discount the fact that this is the historical mind of the Jewish people,” he admitted. “Israel didn’t just commence with the Holocaust itself.” Read more here.
Card-carrying AIPAC donor: “When I moved to D.C., in 2002-2003, I was an AIPAC donor. I had the AIPAC card,” Rhodes said. “Support for Israel was sacrosanct in my household,” he continued, naming former Israeli prime ministers Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin as his “heroes” growing up. Rhodes did not clarify when his donations ended, but criticized the leadership of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The reality here is that, as a Democrat, and yeah, as a progressive Democrat, over the course of the last 12 years, I’ve felt the Israeli government, through its policies and Prime Minister Netanyahu in particular, moving away from what I believed in,” he said, adding, “I found it to be the people who blame us for the current state of the relationship between the Democratic Party and the Israeli government are basically saying to us that we have to adjust our views on the Palestinian issue, on the Iran nuclear issue to be aligned with Bibi Netanyahu, his particular views, or else we’re wrecking the relationship? I don’t think that’s fair.” Read more here.
Charged rhetoric: Rhodes reflected on the heated debate as the Iran deal was being negotiated in 2015, with the former Obama advisor acknowledging that mudslinging came from both sides of the aisle, as some vocal opponents of the agreement were accused of putting Israel’s interests over the United States. But Rhodes said the White House never engaged in such rhetoric. “We never would have used language like ‘Israel-firsters,’” Rhodes said, describing the language as “out of bounds.” “I was assigned a lot more power than I had by some of our critics that I was somehow completely masterminding and shaping everything that everybody said in this debate,” Rhodes argued. “If you look at the huge volume of material produced by the White House in defense of the Iran deal, it was usually very specific.”
Good and evil: Asked if he views the Islamic Republic of Iran as evil, Rhodes hesitated. “I don’t like calling any country evil,” he said, “because I think that countries are made up of individuals. There are evil people in the Islamic Republic of Iran. There are good people who live in that country. This is core to my worldview: I would not point at any one country in the world and say that country is evil.” Rhodes argued that “there are technocrats in the Islamic Republic of Iran who I don’t think are evil people. There are some evil people who are hateful and Holocaust deniers and killers and the rest of it as well.” But, he added, “I wouldn’t look at any one government or nation and say it’s a monolith, all those people are the same, all those people are evil. I think that the U.S. makes a mistake sometimes in its foreign policy, and we deny ourselves opportunities to make diplomatic progress when we look at whole governments, which are incredibly complicated organisms filled with very different people, and say, ‘That whole government is evil.’” Read more here.
A great escape, conjured up by a Ouija board
Margalit Fox delights in the process of exhuming obscure stories and bringing them to life. She proved an unusually skilled practitioner during her 14-year run as an obituary writer for The New York Times, where she produced some of the paper’s most elegantly rendered portraits of uncelebrated but consequential figures. Fox, who is 60, retired from the Times in 2018, but her zeal for unearthing arcane narratives has by no means diminished. In her new book, The Confidence Men: How Two Prisoners of War Engineered the Most Remarkable Escape in History, she resurrects a gripping drama that would likely have remained largely unknown to modern readers had she not endeavored to tell it. “I have never encountered a story like this,” Fox told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview.
Great escape: The book, a nonfiction historical thriller out today from Random House, is set during World War I and centers on an ingenious escape plan hatched by a pair of British soldiers, Elias Henry Jones and Cedric Waters Hill, who devise an almost unbelievable scheme to break out of a remote Turkish prison camp using only a makeshift Ouija board. “How could this preposterous scheme actually have worked?” Fox recalled wondering when she happened upon Jones’s little-known memoir several years ago. To her delight, Fox felt that the story had “really had slipped into a crevice in history.” “That was exciting,” she said, “because if it was in a crevice in history, then I as a 21st-century journalist could have the wonderful privilege of levering it out again for people to see.”
Procedural predilection: While Jones’s riveting account was detailed on strategy, Fox believed he had failed to explore the psychological conditions that allowed him to manipulate his captors. “I was determined in my research and writing to find out why,” Fox told JI. Fox has long been fascinated by such tales. “All of my books are kind of about procedure,” she said. “What could be more procedural than an escape plot that is rooted in a con game?”
Jewish roots: Fox was raised by secular Jewish parents on Long Island. At home, Fox’s parents spoke both English and Yiddish. But despite her training as a linguist at Stony Brook University, where she studied before pursuing a journalism degree from Columbia University, Fox never mastered her ancestors’ native tongue. “I regret deeply that I didn’t acquire more Yiddish when I was young because I loved hearing it in the house,” she said. “But of course, it was the language they spoke when they didn’t want me to understand what they were saying.”
What’s next: Fox thinks The Confidence Men is ripe for a Hollywood adaptation, and she is hoping her story will be optioned. As for her next book, Fox says she is already working on a new manuscript, due at the end of next year, but won’t reveal much about it. “It’s a book about crime in 19th-century America,” she said. “That’s pretty much all I can say right now.” Until that book is released, devoted Fox readers can occupy their time with The Confidence Men, or consult the Times, where the 70-odd pre-written obituaries she left behind after retiring continue to be published on a semi-regular basis. “It really is in the lap of the gods,” she said.
Senate Republicans reintroduce Hamas sanctions legislation
Following last month’s conflict between Israel and Hamas, Senate Republicans led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bill Friday seeking to impose sanctions on individuals, entities and governments that provide support to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terrorist groups in response to their rocket attacks targeting Israel, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
On the offensive: “As these terrorist groups continue to show zero regard for the loss of innocent lives and threaten our ally, Israel, I’m proud to reintroduce this bill which seeks to impose sanctions against foreign nationals and governments who are actively providing material support to these groups,” Rubio said in a statement. “We must hold accountable the individuals who are aiding the terrorist activities of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
Backstory: Nearly identical legislation passed the House in 2019 with bipartisan support by a voice vote but stalled in the Senate. The Senate companion bill to the 2019 legislation, introduced by Rubio and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), gathered 26 additional cosponsors, including 10 Democrats. The legislation was reintroduced in the House in January by Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), and currently has 47 cosponsors, 10 of them Democrats.
Across the aisle: No Senate Democrats have yet signed onto the reintroduced legislation — but that is due to the timing, rather than the content, of the bill, a Senate Democratic aide told JI. “There is bipartisan support for holding Hamas accountable for its long history of terrorist activity in the region,” the aide said. “It’s regrettable that Senate Republicans decided to go it alone on legislation that has had Democratic support in the past. The focus over the past few weeks has been on facilitating de-escalation in the region and supporting Israel’s right to defend itself. To introduce this bill now without partners across the aisle is disappointing.”
Who’s onboard: Rubio reintroduced the legislation with 15 Republicans: Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Todd Young (R-IN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Mike Braun (R-IN), John Boozman (R-AR), Rick Scott (R-FL), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Roger Wicker (R-MS), James Lankford (R-OK), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Josh Hawley (R-MO).
🇮🇶 Looking Back: In the Wall Street Journal, Iraqi-born Joseph Samuels reflects on the widespread attacks against Iraqi Jews in the early 1940s that led his family to flee the country. “Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa had existed for millennia, but they are nearly all gone. Around 850,000 Jews like us were forced to leave their countries. They, too, left behind their homes, businesses, irreplaceable historical artifacts and religious treasures. This was ethnic cleansing of Jews, right after the Holocaust, in the middle of the 20th century.” [WSJ]
✡️ Making it Personal: NBC News’ Erik Ortiz looks at the role that Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a sitting vice president, has filled as a White House surrogate to the Jewish community amid an uptick in antisemitism across the country. “I think he understands the urgency and importance of this issue and recognizes this needs to stay front and center,” said Rabbi Beth Jacowitz Chottiner, a childhood friend of Emhoff. For the second gentleman, “it’s not just a political issue,” she said, “it’s also a personal one.” [NBCNews]
🇮🇱 Fight-Free: In USA Today, Aaron David Miller suggests that President Joe Biden “will go to considerable lengths” to avoid picking a fight with Israel, despite pressure from some progressive elements within the Democratic Party to take a more active role in the Middle East. “Fighting with Israel is an occupational hazard. And presidents have surely done it when the fight promises a big foreign policy success that makes the fight worthwhile and necessary… But wrestling with the Israelis on a peace process that’s comatose, where the mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians is deep and toxic and where there’s zero chance of a big accord hardly seems worth the effort.” [USAT]
🗣️ Scene Kid: The New Yorker’s Charles Duhigg profiles Chamath Palihapitiya, the polarizing venture capitalist and early senior Facebook executive who is launching a series of SPACs. Many of those interviewed by Duhigg have their own stories about the entrepreneur’s outlandish behavior, including one about Palihapitiya’s attire at the funeral of his friend (and husband of Sheryl Sandberg) Dave Goldberg, where it was requested that attendees, honoring Goldberg’s hatred of neckwear, not wear ties. “‘Dave would have absolutely loved that,’ a friend of both men told me. ‘Chamath’s outrageousness makes the world more fun.’” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
📰 Fit to Print?: On Friday, the New York Times featured 69 children under the age of 18 who were killed in the recent conflict on its homepage. A 17-year-old Palestinian spotlighted was identified by the terror group Mujahideen Brigades as a member. Former ADL director Abe Foxman called the Times’ feature a ‘blood libel of Israel’ and announced he was canceling his subscription to the paper. Rob Satloff, the executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, examined the shortcomings of the report.
🗞️ Free Press: The family of Myanmar-based journalist Danny Fenster are pleading for his release after the American was detained while trying to leave the country last week.
🚫 No Access: The International Atomic Energy Association reported that it has not been able to access data key to monitoring Iran’s nuclear program since February. A report issued by the IAEA on Monday also found that Iran’s production of nuclear fuel fell in recent weeks, following an explosion at its Natanz nuclear facility.
☢️ No Answer: U.N.’s nuclear watchdog found that Iranian officials have been unable to explain traces of uranium found at several undeclared sites.
📡 New Strategy: Iran-backed militias are using drones to launch attacks near military sites and diplomatic outposts in Iraq, worrying U.S. military officials in the country.
🚢 Keeping Tabs: U.S. officials are monitoring two Iranian warships that may be headed toward Venezuela.
🗳️ Race to Watch: Knesset members will cast their ballots tomorrow in Israel’s presidential election, in which Jewish Agency chair Isaac Herzog and educator Miriam Peretz will vie for the seven-year term.
🏦 Holding Steady: The Bank of Israel is continuing to hold its benchmark interest rate at 0.1%, with no increase expected until at least next year.
🤝 Let’s Make A Deal: Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a tax treaty Monday that will go into effect Jan. 1, 2022.
🙅♂️ No Go: Simon Cowell has scrapped plans to appear as a judge on “X Factor Israel.”
🇸🇪 Not Safe: A Swedish man — who is not Jewish — who wore a yarmulke in solidarity with the Jewish community was assaulted by a group of men in the city of Gothenburg.
🕍 Rebuilding: Architect Daniel Libeskind, who will redesign parts of Tree of Life Or L’Simcha synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa. and who visited the site last week, plans to create a structure that shows that “life is being affirmed.”
📺 As Seen on TV: Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) said on CNN that progressives who call Israel an “apartheid” or “terrorist” state are engaging in antisemitic rhetoric.
🕵️ G-Man: The FBI is assisting the NYPD with combating antisemitic hate crimes.
⚖️ Track Record: The Wall Street Journal looks at the prosecutorial history of Gary Fishman, one of two assistant attorneys general working with the Manhattan district attorney’s office on a case against former President Donald Trump.
🎩 Bad Business: Nashville hat company HatWRKS apologized for a social media post in which it advertised a gold Star of David with an anti-vaccination message written inside.
🦽 Pioneering Woman: Washington Post Magazine profiles author and disability rights activist Judy Heumann.
🏫 Institutional Politics: Some younger evangelicals and trustees of Liberty University want the institution to change its culture and focus more on religious values instead of politics.
🛫 Solidarity Mission: Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, the first U.S. governor to visit Israel this year, visited Israeli homes that had been struck by rockets in the latest conflict with Hamas.
🎒 Teaching Moment: CNN explores state-level efforts to mandate Holocaust education in public schools at a time when young Americans are displaying an increasing lack of knowledge about the subject.
💒 Wedding Bells: The New York Times spotlights the recent wedding of Danielle Lavey and Drew Feldman, one of seven couples (and counting) who met through Corona Crush, the Facebook group making virtual connections among Jewish singles.
🎓 Campus Beat: A day after sending a campus-wide email condemning antisemitism, the chancellor of Rutgers University sent a follow-up email apologizing and noting that the original email “failed to communicate support for our Palestinian community members.” The university deleted both statements from its website, and sent out a third email denouncing “hatred and bigotry in all forms.”
🕯️ Remembering: Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan died at age 90.
Pic of the Day
A rally against antisemitism, held Sunday in Berlin, called out rising hate across Europe.
Comedian, actress and producer, Amy Schumer turns 40…
Theater, film and television actress, Joan Maxine Miller Copeland turns 99… Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, pianist and conductor, Yehudi Wyner turns 92… Holocaust survivor, he served as the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel and twice as chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau turns 84… Founder and dean of Beth Jacob Jerusalem, Rebbetzin Bruria David turns 83… NYC-based attorney, author of two books regarding the history and operations of El Al, owner of 40,000 plus pieces of memorabilia related to El Al, Marvin G. Goldman turns 82… Grammy Award-winning classical pianist, Richard Goode turns 78… Former member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Shimon Ohayon turns 76… Retired attorney in Berkeley, Calif., Thom Seaton turns 75… Pediatrician in the San Francisco Bay area, Elliot Charles Lepler, MD turns 73… Former member of the Knesset for the Shinui and the Hilonit Tzionit parties, Eti Livni turns 73… Founding editor of The American Interest, Adam M. Garfinkle turns 70… Former editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, Matthew Winkler turns 66… London-based political scientist and journalist, Ahron “Ronnie” Bregman turns 63… Former member of the Knesset for the Shas party, Amnon Cohen turns 61… Majority owner of MLB’s Oakland Athletics, his parents were the co-founders of Gap, Inc., he is the chair of Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Foundation, John J. Fisher turns 60… Poet, performance artist and essayist, Adeena Karasick, Ph.D. turns 56… Founding editor and publisher of the Dayton Jewish Observer, Marshall J. Weiss turns 54… Television personality and matchmaker, Sigalit “Siggy” Flicker turns 54… Actress and film director, Danielle Harris turns 44… Contributing editor at The Daily Beast, Spencer J. Ackerman turns 41… Musician, actor and author, Ari Seth Herstand turns 36… Executive director of MoveOn[dot]org Political Action, Ilya Sheyman turns 35… Political reporter for NBC News and MSNBC, Alex Seitz-Wald turns 35… Naomi S. Kadish turns 26… Isabel Keller turns 24…