👋 Good Thursday morning!
Opposition leader Yair Lapid succeeded in forming his coalition for a new Israeli government, informing President Reuven Rivlin just minutes before the deadline. Drawing from across the political spectrum, this “change government” is unified around the goal of removing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power.
Despite forming the coalition, Lapid will not swear in as its prime minister. Rather, Naftali Bennett — leader of the pro-settler Yamina party — is signed on to be prime minister until 2023, when Lapid would swap in for the role. This agreement is the first time that a party that won just seven seats in Israel’s election will produce a prime minister.
In another history-making first, Israel’s Ra’am party — a conservative Islamist Arab party — signed onto the coalition agreement. Making a decision contentious with both the Israeli right and Ra’am’s own base, party head Mansour Abbas had to receive approval from the Southern Islamic Movement’s Shura council to join Lapid and Bennett’s coalition.
With challenges from both Netanyahu’s Likud party and possible defections from within the coalition, it remains unclear whether the “change government” will be seated ahead of a Knesset vote in the coming days to confirm the new government.
It’s anticipated that Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, could attempt to delay the formalization vote up to its 11-day legal maximum. In a counter move, Lapid is making a bid to replace Levin with a speaker from his own Yesh Atid party. Parallel to this drama, a right-wing member of the change coalition, Nir Orbach, has considered defecting. Lapid would need to maintain his razor-thin majority of 61 votes to seat the government.
During yesterday’s swearing-in ceremony for White House science advisor Eric Lander — the first individual to hold the position at the Cabinet level — the geneticist explained why he was sworn in on a 1492 edition of Pirkei Avot.
“For me and thinking about an oath of office, I thought about values,” Lander said. “‘What are my values, the administration’s values? What are we all here trying to do?’ And there’s a very special concept in Jewish tradition called ‘Tikkun olam’ — repairing the world. And we’re all called on to repair the world, whatever religion or tradition we come from. But there’s a specific line that comes in the Jewish tradition that contains that obligation… it says, ‘We don’t have to finish the work, but we may not refrain from doing that work, the work of repairing the world.’” (h/t C-SPAN’s Howard Mortman)
The Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition, a local advocacy group representing the greater Flatbush Jewish community in Brooklyn, is planning to endorse Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for mayor this week, according to two sources with knowledge of the endorsement who spoke with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Hagerty: Biden admin’s foreign policy ‘has emboldened Iran and its proxies like Hamas’
Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) laid much of the blame for the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza on the Biden administration’s Middle East policies, in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod on Wednesday. Hagerty, who returned Wednesday morning from a multi-day trip to Israel, said he traveled to the region to “show my unwavering support for Israel.” The Tennessee senator characterized the recent conflict as a “test of the will of the Biden administration” on behalf of Iran and its proxies.
Quotable: “This onslaught of violence and terrorism has been encouraged by policy positions coming out of the Biden administration because their embrace of Iran has emboldened Iran and its proxies like Hamas to step up and test this administration,” he said. “I think the Biden administration has put us in great jeopardy by reengaging with the Iranians… I think that puts the entire region at risk.” Hagerty’s comments stand in stark contrast to those of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who also visited the region this week. Graham argued on Tuesday that most Democrats, including Biden, are strongly pro-Israel. “You’ve got to look at how they vote. It’s hard to know what’s in a person’s heart… When they vote in a way that’s not supportive, I think that sends a very bad message,” Hagerty said, before adding that his constituents in Tennessee are pro-Israel regardless of party affiliation.
On course: Speaking to JI less than two hours after Israeli opposition party leaders announced they had agreed to form a new government, setting the stage for Netanyahu’s ouster, Hagerty predicted that U.S.-Israel relations would not be impacted by the potential change in government. “It should have no change at all. Israel remains our ally. It has since 1948 and will continue with our ally,” Hagerty said. “I look forward to working with Israeli leadership, whomever it may be, over the course of the coming year… I’ve gotta believe that the strategic interests remain the same.”
Mapping the future for Israelis and Palestinians atop a D.C. rooftop
At a rooftop reception near Dupont Circle on Tuesday evening, former longtime AIPAC staffer Jonathan Kessler officially launched his new venture: Heart of a Nation, an organization devoted to bringing together American, Israeli and Palestinian progressives. Around 15 people gathered on the rooftop of Kessler’s apartment building for wine, cheese and crackers and hummus, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. For many, it was their first public event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. People mingled, speaking of their excitement to return to the office or their yoga studios. Each attendee had come at the personal invitation of Kessler.
Never be satisfied: “It’s good to be disappointed in the way things are [between Israelis and Palestinians]. It’s good to be discouraged. It’s good to be dissatisfied,” Kessler said in a speech to attendees. “Dissatisfaction with Israel and Palestine in America is not the problem. It’s the solution, or it’s the beginning of the solution.” Heart of a Nation, which Kessler calls a “community of purpose,” is meant to create a network of progressives who can collaborate, problem solve and discuss issues faced in all three cultures, like racism and the unraveling of democracy. It aims to highlight similarities between all three groups of activists, but it does not take an official stance on any issues, particularly the one that could most divide members: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Kessler did not respond to a question about what Heart of a Nation will do if members’ beliefs come into conflict, such as if American or Palestinian activists call for a boycott of Israel.
Intellectual exercise: Heart of a Nation’s mission is “thought leadership,” said Kessler, and not lobbying or advocacy, as he spent the last several decades doing at AIPAC. Under the auspices of the initiative, Kessler intends to produce a podcast and publish an online journal with articles written by the group’s 36-member advisory board, half of whom live in the U.S. and half of whom are Israeli or Palestinian. When asked, he did not reveal the names of any of the organization’s donors, saying only that the support has come from “Jews, Muslims and Christians.”
Guest list: Sitting on wicker lawn chairs on an unseasonably pleasant June evening drinking boxed wine was a group that included Kinney Zalesne, a former Hillel International vice president now serving as general manager of corporate strategy at Microsoft; Yousef Bashir, a former PLO staffer from Gaza who is now director of research and operations at the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace; Lauren Strauss, a professor of Jewish studies at American University; Joel Rubin, executive director of American Jewish Congress and former Jewish outreach director for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign; a senior Biden administration official; several AIPAC staffers; and a handful of other friends of Kessler’s whose work has to do with Israel or the Middle East.
Senators Rosen, Scott and Booker launch new caucus on Black-Jewish relations
Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) are launching the first-ever Senate Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations to combat racism and antisemitism, the senators announced Wednesday.
Looking to history: The caucus’ leaders seek to build on a long legacy of Black-Jewish collaboration during the civil rights movement, according to a mission statement obtained by Jewish Insider. “In the 20th century, the Black-Jewish partnership helped usher in the birth of the civil rights movement, as Black and Jewish Americans came together to take a stand against bigotry and hate,” Rosen said in a statement. “This new, bipartisan caucus is an opportunity to come together and build bridges that connect us, shine a light on our common challenges, and form a coalition where we advocate for one another as we help lift up both the Black and Jewish communities.”
Responding: The announcement comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill have offered a range of proposals to address a recent spike in antisemitism in the wake of last month’s conflict between Israel and Hamas. “The Black community understands the pain of discrimination that our Jewish friends have faced both here and abroad,” Scott said in a statement. “With anti-Semitism on the rise, it’s increasingly important that we stand united.”
Read more here.
Jon Scheyer to succeed Coach K at Duke
Following the announcement that longtime Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski will retire after next season, Jon Scheyer, the team’s associate head coach and a former Maccabi Tel Aviv shooting guard, has been named the next head coach of the Blue Devils, Jewish Insider’s Jacob Miller reports.
‘Jewish Jordan’: Scheyer grew up in a heavily Jewish suburb of Chicago and celebrated a basketball-themed Bar Mitzvah. As a teenager playing for Glenbrook North High School’s basketball team, Scheyer earned the nickname “Jewish Jordan.” He has been honored by the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame twice. As a high school player, Scheyer smashed records and impressed his coaches. In his most stunning performance, Scheyer scored 21 points in 75 seconds in the West Proviso Holiday Tournament, which the Chicago Tribune called “the greatest performance in the 45-year history of the Proviso West Tournament.”
Shot Maker: From 2006 to 2010, Scheyer played for Duke University, twice serving as captain and leading the team to its 2010 national championship victory. In 2011, Scheyer played for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA D-league, before joining Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he was signed for two years. Scheyer, whose father is Jewish, attained Israeli citizenship to sidestep a European League rule that limited the number of foreign players allowed per team.
🌍 New Policy: Foreign Policy columnist Elise Labott explores how the Biden administration’s reaction to the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza may be indicative of a broader shift in how the U.S. views and talks about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Biden’s seemingly subtle shift has the potential to break the glass on the United States’ long-standing approach to the conflict and toward Israel in particular. And it offers a textbook example of how Biden can walk his talk of centering foreign policy around democracy, human rights, and international law by applying those American values to the treatment of Palestinians.” [ForeignPolicy]
🇺🇸🇮🇱 Sea Change: In Politico, Daniel Kurtzer, Aaron David Miller and Steven Simon examine the challenges facing the Biden administration — and the next Israeli government — following the announcement that a coalition led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid has likely ousted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They write that “the contradictions that lie ahead are disorienting: an Israeli prime minister with anti-Palestinian convictions who will need to curb his own views to maintain coalition stability, and an Israeli government that wants to rebuild ties to a U.S. administration seeking an Iran deal that Israel opposes.” [Politico]
🤝 Complex Coalition: Writing in Foreign Policy, Neri Zilber explainsthe politics involved in bringing Israel’s change government to fruition, especially given that this coalition between far right and far left has shattered the traditional Israeli paradigm. “Bennett, a former settler leader and religious nationalist, described his decision to form this heterogeneous government as ‘the most complex’ of his life. Netanyahu, for his part, has launched withering attacks against Bennett in a bid to derail the alternative coalition, calling it, in his own Sunday address, ‘the fraud of the century’ and a ‘dangerous left-wing government’ that would imperil the country’s future.” [ForeignPolicy]
👴 Game of Life: The Jewish Standard’s Jonathan Lazarus dives into the personal and professional trajectories of Omega Advisors chairman and CEO Leon Cooperman, the 77-year-old investor and philanthropist. “Although two of Mr. Cooperman’s principles — his reliance on rigorous analysis and research, and his determination to follow his intuition and act on hunches —seem to be contradictory, he followed them both, and they worked consistently well for him.” [JewishStandard]
Around the Web
🙍♂️ UNRWA Update: The Gaza director of UNRWA, the U.N. agency dealing with Palestinian refugees, is facing criticism following remarks about the precision of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.
💉 Side Effects: Myocarditis may be a rare side effect of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, according to Israel’s Ministry of Health.
💱 Crypto: Cryptocurrency donations to Hamas have surged following the recent flareup in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.
🎨 Art Critic: Belgiumis returning a painting to the family of a German Jewish couple who fled Nazi Germany during World War II.
✂ Cutting Ties: The Government Pension Fund of Norway, the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, is dropping two Israeli companies from its assets.
🧭 Travel Delays: More than 100 Jews from the Manipur state in northeastern India had their planned immigration to Israel delayed after contracting COVID-19.
🔴🔵Unity Push: Former Democratic Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) and Republican businessman Fred Zeidman are jointly calling for the major parties to reject partisanship and unite to tackle the recent rise in antisemitism.
🖥️ Google It: Google’s diversity head, under fire for an antisemitic blog post from 2007 in which he stated Jews have “an insatiable appetite for war and killing,” offered a private apology for the remarks, while the company has transferred him from diversity to STEM work, per a statement the company issued to media outlets.
✂️ Defaced: A banner proclaiming support for Israel was defaced and cut up outside a Potomac, Md., synagogue.
🏫 Elementary: A fifth-grade student in Tenafly, N.J., wrote a school essay lauding Adolf Hitler, triggering public controversy and a Board of Education investigation.
🥪 Sandwich Speculation: Despite revenue of only $13,976 last year, Your Hometown Deli, a local deli in rural New Jersey, was valued at $113 million on the stock market, another example of social media-driven price rises.
💊 Bitter Pill: A N.Y. judge provisionally approved a bankruptcy plan for Purdue Pharma, makers of Oxycontin and facing multiple suits for the role the drug played in the U.S.’s opioid epidemic. If approved by the company’s creditors, Purdue Pharma — owned by the Sackler family — would settle $4.2 billion in claims, in exchange for achieving future immunity from civil suits.
🍲 New Food Spot: Uncle Pinkie’s Market & Deli recently opened a new Jewish deli in West Palm Beach following Mazie’s — the same chef’s popular spot — closing.
🕊️ Peaceful Pageant: Former Iraqi Miss Universe Sarah Idan, who received death threats after posting a selfie with Miss Israel in 2017, spoke out against radical Islamists, claiming they seek to “eradicate” the U.S. and Israel.
👩 New Role: Clara Sheinmann speaks to eJP about her new role as director of programs and strategy at the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism.
Song of the Day
Israeli singer and former “X Factor Israel” star Eden Ben Zakon performs “A Letter to my Brother” with members of Special in Uniform in a viral new video.
First lady of the United States, pictured here on a 2010 trip to Israel, Dr. Jill Biden turns 70…
Richard J. Munitz turns 83… Alice Heyman turns 83… Retired attorney and AIPAC activist in Kansas City, Missouri, Peter Levi turns 76… Attorney, law professor and businesswoman, Jan Schneider turns 74… Algerian-born French citizen and Tel Aviv-based attorney, elected in 2012 to serve as an overseas representative to the French parliament representing the southern Mediterranean region, Daphna Poznanski-Benhamou turns 71… Director for legislative strategy, policy and government affairs at AIPAC, Ester Kurz turns 70… Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he heads its program in Judezmo (or Ladino) studies, David Monson Bunis turns 69… President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston since 2007, he has worked there since 1985, Eric S. Rosengren turns 64… Chief cantor of Vienna, Austria’s Israelitische Kultusgemeinde, Shmuel Barzilai turns 64… Rabbi at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles since 1987, he became senior rabbi in 2003, Steve Leder turns 61…
Member of the British Parliament for the Conservative Party, Jonathan Djanogly turns 56… U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York, Judge Ronnie Abrams turns 53… CEO of Ridgeback Communications, Andrew Samuel Weinstein turns 51… Executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, Jason Moss turns 47… Actress best known for her role as Nicole Walker on the NBC’s daytime soap opera “Days of Our Lives,” Arianne Zucker turns 47… Los Angeles-based PR consultant at Winning Progressive, Eric M. Schmeltzer turns 46… Director of annual giving and alumni relations at the San Francisco Day School, Lauren Becker turns 35… Director of events and strategic partnerships at Not Impossible Labs, Sophie Oreck turns 31… National field director at the Israel on Campus Coalition, Brandon Beigler turns 29… D.C.-based reporter at The Wall Street Journal, Michelle Hackman turns 28…