👋 Good Monday morning!
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and U.N. Gilad Erdan announced on Sunday that he submitted his resignation from the Washington posting to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pending the appointment of a new ambassador, but will stay on as Israel’s representative at the U.N.
Hours after the announcement, Erdan appeared at a farewell event in Manhattan to honor outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. More below.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken met with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Rome yesterday, where the two discussed Iran and a reset in Israeli relations with U.S. Democrats. Lapid distinguished his approach from former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s, reiterating that “mistakes were made” that exacerbated the partisan divide on Israel, and said Israel remained opposed to U.S. accession to an Iranian nuclear deal but wouldn’t debate those disagreements as publicly as before.
The U.S. carried out three airstrikesSunday night against Iranian-backed militias along the Syrian-Iraqi border. The Pentagon announced the “defensive precision airstrikes” in response to recent unmanned aerial drone attacks against the U.S. military launched from the militias’ facilities.
The strikes — two in Syria and one in Iraq — were carried out at the orders of President Joe Biden, the Pentagon said. The military has grappled with increased attacks from Iranian-backed militias using small armed drones that can more easily evade U.S. defenses. Similar drones were also used by Iranian-backed militias in Gaza during the violence last month. In May, CENTCOM commander Gen. Frank McKenzie warned that the military needed to improve defensive solutions against the inexpensive, yet sophisticated, drones. Both the U.S. and Israel have recently begun testing systems with high-powered lasers to shoot down drone swarms and other aerial threats.
A working group agreed upon by U.S. and Israeli national security officials in April to counter Iran’s use of drones and cruise missiles in the region met for the first time earlier this month.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who leads the Foreign Relations subcommittee focusing on the Middle East, raised concerns about repeated strikes on Iranian proxies, saying they “are starting to look like what would qualify as a pattern of hostilities under the War Powers Act. Both the Constitution and the War Powers Act require the president to come to Congress for a war declaration under these circumstances.”
Jewish Insider reached out to all first-term House members to ask if they plan to join the upcoming American Israel Education Foundation trip to Israel for first-term legislators. So far, Reps. Claudia Tenney (R-NY), Michelle Fischbach (R-MN), Nancy Mace (R-SC), Kat Cammack (R-FL), Barry Moore (R-AL) and Randy Feenstra (R-IA) have said they’re going. Reps. Byron Donalds (R-FL), Stephanie Bice (R-OK) and Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM) are not.
In one of his first public appearances since leaving office in January, former President Donald Trump spoke at a rally in Northeast Ohio on Saturday in support of congressional candidate and former administration staffer Max Miller, whom Trump referred to as “a trusted aide of mine at the White House.” Of Miller, Trump said, “He did a fantastic job. He helped me with North Korea negotiations, and we did so much for Israel and Iraq and the G7, G20. We brought peace to the Middle East if this guy [Biden] would finish it. But now he’s going back to the Iran deal, which is going to destroy Israel, or there’s going to be a big war more likely.”
Israel’s new diaspora affairs minister visits a Jewish community in crisis
In his first international trip as Israel’s minister of diaspora affairs, Nachman Shai arrived early Sunday morning in Surfside, Fla., as part of a joint delegation with Israel’s foreign affairs and defense ministries to help with relief efforts following the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers condominium. In an interview with Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch last night, Shai discussed Israel’s assistance to search-and-rescue efforts and why the country feels a responsibility toward Jews in need.
Returning the favor: “There’s a message here that I believe should be delivered, that when you’re in trouble, we are there to help,” Shai said. “When we are in trouble, you are coming to help us. I remember that every single opportunity that is needed, any assistance, any help from the United States with any administration — by the way, Republican, Democrats, in general — you’re always there for us.”
High-level orders: The delegation was organized at the urging of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett following the collapse of the oceanfront condominium in the heavily Jewish area north of Miami Beach. “He called me a few times since [Friday], to make sure that I’m going, that I know what to say, that I know what message I’m going to carry,” Shai said. “It seems like he’s really interested in this trip.” Shai met yesterday with public officials including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, as well as leaders from the Miami Jewish community. He plans to stay in Florida until Tuesday and will meet with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and additional Jewish organizations.
Trying to explain: A team of engineering and rescue specialists from the IDF went directly to the disaster site. One member of the IDF crew answered questions from people whose family members remain unaccounted for. “They feel helpless. Our representative, one of the rescue team, came also, though, to talk to them. He told them, first of all, he said that the Americans are doing their best,” Shai recalled. He did not address the families as a group, though he has spoken to some individually. “If it comes from a politician’s mouth, it’s one thing. When it comes from professionals, it’s a different thing.”
Source of hope: Contrary to earlier news reports, Shai told JI that there are not believed to be any Israeli citizens among the dead or missing. But as many as 40 Jews are among the more than 150 people that are missing or dead, as of Monday morning. Soon after arriving, Shai visited the area where many Jewish families had gathered, and prayed with them.“I was told that they raised the question, ‘Will Israel come to help us?’ I don’t think Italians will ask this question when it comes to Italy, and I don’t think Irish will,” Shai said. “But when it comes to Jews, they look at Israel as a source of hope, power.”
Community response: Rabbi Sholom Lipskar of The Shul in Bal Harbour, which is serving as a hub for Jewish relief efforts, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff that hope is dimming for families of those who were in the building at the time of the collapse. “We just shower them with kindness and empathy,” he said of the stricken families. “They know that someone is near them who cares, because there is no answer to this problem, it’s embedded in the soul. So the fact that we are just there, being with them, that helps.”
President Rivlin goes to Washington
Outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden along with several high-level Middle East staffers, at 4 p.m. today at the White House. The meeting is expected to last for more than an hour and comes at an important time for U.S.-Israel relations – just as Iran and the U.S. are holding talks in an attempt to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, which Israel publicly opposes.
What to expect: “[Rivlin] will present the position of Israel, which is: ‘We oppose the agreement and we will not allow any country that threatens our existence to obtain nuclear weapons,’” an Israeli official tells Amichai Stein for Jewish Insider. Rivlin is also expected to present the White House with proposals to improve the emerging agreement and a request for closer cooperation between the Jerusalem and Washington on the Iranian issue — a position formed after preliminary meetings Rivlin had in Israel with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yaid Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Such meetings, Israeli officials said, were rare during the Netanyahu era.
Not just the Iranian nuclear program: In his meetings with foreign officials in recent years, Rivlin, who will leave his post after seven years next month, focused on Iranian influence throughout the region via proxies and its impact on Israel. His position is that while the U.S. is considering how to leave the region and how to create a kind of quiet, Israel must coordinate with allies and react — if the threat from the Iranian proxies on the borders continues.
Bipartisanship: Rivlin will also meet with a bipartisan group of House members, a meeting organized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “The president insisted that the delegations that come to meet him in Israel will be composed of both parties, and indeed — a delegation never came from just one party. Because, in the end, he knew, the government would someday change,” an Israeli official told JI. The desire to renew ties with the Democratic Party came in recent weeks from both Bennett and Lapid, the latter of whom marked it as one of his main goals.
New York minute: On his first stop in the U.S., Rivlin was feted at a farewell event Sunday evening at the Moise Safra Center on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, hosted by Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and U.N. Gilad Erdan. Upon arrival, Rivlin worked his way through the crowd of roughly 60 attendees, attempting to personally greet as many as possible. In brief remarks, he touched on the rise in antisemitism, Israel’s concerns over the incoming Iranian government that he plans to address with President Biden and the importance of bipartisan support for Israel — which received a large round of applause from attendees.
Spotted: Abe Foxman, William Daroff, Mark Wilf, Cheryl Fishbein, Israel Nitzan, Melanie Gorelick, Stuart Appelbaum, Dianne Lob, Eric Goldstein, Malcolm Hoenlein, Amanda Berman, Sheila Katz, Michael Cohen, Rabbi Steven Burg, Blake Flayton, Eric Fingerhut, Leah Goldin, Deborah Isaac, Rabbi Joe Potasnik, Phil and Betsy Darivoff, Rabbi Rachel Ain, Rabbi Michael Miller, Rabbi Marc Schneier, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Rabbi Neil Zuckerman, Sol Werdiger, Adva Vilchinski, Itay Milner, Kenny Jacobson, Betty Ehrenberg, Rhoda Smolow, Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, Evelyn Sommer, Jacob Kornbluh.
‘Mayor Mohamed,’ battling Islamophobia and high property taxes in New Jersey
Jeffrey Togman wanted to make a documentary about the bloody civil war in Syria. He found his subject at a synagogue. In May 2016, the Seton Hall University political science professor saw that Congregation Shomrei Emunah, a Montclair, N.J., Conservative synagogue five blocks from his home, would be hosting a discussion on the Syrian war and refugee crisis. At the time, Togman was actively looking for a subject to profile in his film. “I was looking for Syrian Americans who could tell the story of Syria,” Togman told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch last week.
Jersey boy: After hearing Mohamed Khairullah — a Syrian American activist and the mayor of nearby Prospect Park, N.J., a town of nearly 6,000 — speak at the event, Togman knew he had found his documentary’s main subject. “He’s a real American, Jersey guy. I thought he’d be a great character, and a great person to bridge these two worlds, to let many Americans understand what was happening in Syria,” Togman said. He released “Mayor Mohamed”earlier this month at the Brooklyn Film Festival, with plans to bring the film to more audiences later this year.
Speaking up: Khairullah, a Democrat, has long been vocal about his Syrian heritage and his criticism of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. He also is not shy about describing the racism he faces as a Muslim public servant. “There’s a lot more people who don’t speak about it, who just take their punches and roll through life, through the pain and suffering, sometimes missing opportunities — or sometimes just having to take the pain, that humiliation,” Khairullah told JI. “It’s just not acceptable, so I don’t mind exposing it. That’s why I chose to share my story.”
Quality of life: The feature-length movie shows daily life for Khairullah and his family in northern New Jersey. “The town itself is just a microcosm of American diversity,” Togman said of Prospect Park, where more than half the residents are of Hispanic origin. But, Khairullah said, “just like any New Jersey community, everybody complains about property taxes. We pride ourselves on our community and our quality of life.” He has been mayor since 2006 and plans to run for another term next year.
Day in the life: In most ways, Khairullah’s life is unremarkable: He spends time with his wife and kids, he goes to work as a teacher (his day job), he roots for the Giants. But he also deals with the discrimination that comes with being Muslim in America. “I wasn’t fully aware, certainly, at the type of hatred that Muslim Americans face,” said Togman. “The hate mail was atrocious: wishing them all dead, saying that all Muslims were animals. Things that many other groups, including Jewish Americans, are very familiar with.”
🤔 Strategic Weakness: Aaron David Miller argues in USA Today that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is good for Washington, in large part because his coalition is fragile and unlikely to pursue policy changes vis-a-vis the Palestinians. “If the new government endures, it could make managing the U.S.-Israeli relationship (and perhaps a regional issue or two) a good deal easier for a president who has a lot on his plate at home and doesn’t need a major Middle East distraction.” [USAToday]
😡 Track Record: Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, writes in Newsweek that Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi has had an active hand in propagating antisemitism, including promoting The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. “In 2016, Raisi was appointed by Iran’s supreme leader to direct the Astan Quds Razavi Foundation, in which capacity he oversaw the production of a 50-episode documentary film promoting The Protocols… But even since he’s left the Foundation, Raisi has continued to incite hateful conspiracy theories and even violence in his public remarks.” [Newsweek]
📕 Rhode Rage: In Commentary, James Kirchick reviews Ben Rhodes’s new book, After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made, in which Rhodes expresses his frustration with Trump-era America. “If you experienced the world like this, if you had convinced yourself that every single person who questioned your perspective on a wide variety of highly contentious issues was either arguing in bad faith or willfully malign, it would take a superhuman capacity not to be consumed by the ‘visceral, dumbfounded anger’ that appears to be the overriding factor in Rhodes’s life… ‘The Cold War that needs to be won now is at home, a battle between people who live in the reality of the world as it is,’ the supercilious title of his White House memoir, ‘and people who are choosing to live in a false reality comprised of their basest grievances—and seeking to impose it on the rest of us.’” [Commentary]
Around the Web
🏨 B&V: Iran’s use of 20 hotels across the U.S. as polling sites for its June 18 presidential election has raised questions over whether the British- and American-owned hotels violated sanctions.
⛽ Bad Fuel: Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah stated that logistical preparations were complete for Lebanon to import fuel from Iran as a solution to the country’s fuel shortage, a move opposed by the U.S.
⚛️ Crumbling Cooperation: The International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran has not responded to the U.N. body’s request to extend a newly expired monitoring agreement, endangering prospects for the Vienna nuclear talks.
😷 Variant Spread: Israel will mandate indoor masking, a week and a half after lifting the restriction, in response to the country’s outbreak of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, in which 40-50% of infections occurred in vaccinated people.
🗻 Fact-finding: RetiredIsraeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor will lead a panel into the Mount Meron stampede on Lag B’Omer in April that left 45 dead. Joining the panel are former Bnei Brak Mayor Rabbi Mordechai Karelitz and retired IDF Gen. Shlomo Yanai.
⛔ No Change: The Biden administration said in a tweet that there was no change in policy regarding the Trump administration’s recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.
🏳️🌈 Pride in Israel: Tens of thousands marched in Tel Aviv’s annual Pride parade on Friday, after last year’s parade was canceled due to the pandemic.
🔍 Hidden in Sight: Israel’s Ministry of Defense and survival technology company Polaris Solutions unveiled a sheet that camouflages users into the landscape, making them hard to detect by the naked eye or thermal sensors.
👏 Righteous: A statue was unveiled in Nottinghamshire, U.K., to Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who used her position as a social worker to enter the Warsaw Ghetto and save hundreds of Jewish children.
🇩🇪 New Law: The Bundestag lower house of Germany’s parliament approved a law easing the process for descendants of individuals persecuted by Nazis to claim citizenship.
💰 Moderate Middle: Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Terri Sewell (D-AL) founded Team Blue PAC to protect vulnerable moderate incumbents from attacks by progressives.
🤷🏻♀️ Not So Special: Pundit Noah Smith makes a data-based case for why Jewish achievement is “less interesting” when contextualized by factors such as selective immigration and urbanization.
👬 Catastrophe Bond: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at the friendship formed between Dan Leger, a nurse who was shot in the torso during the Tree of Life massacre, and Tim Matson, the SWAT officer who saved his life while suffering serious left arm damage.
📖 In the Works: Former Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is writing a book, titled Sledgehammer, about his experiences representing America’s Israel policy during the Trump years.
🚨 Remaining Relevant: A New York Times profile explores the influence of veteran Democratic economic advisor Larry Summers, who has recently sounded the alarm on the scope of the Biden administration’s spending plans.
⚾ Major League: Retired MLB infieldersIan Kinsler and Danny Valencia will join the Atlantic League, playing for the Long Island Ducks, in preparation for their participation on Israel’s Olympic team for the Tokyo Games.
👩🏻⚖️ Plea: Retired Israeli swimmer Dov Malnick pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to charges of securities fraud and insider trading, after allegedly taking part in an international insider trading ring.
🎬 Silver Screen: In The New York Times, Ilana Glazer discusses how her personal identity played a role in the film “False Positive,” a social commentary from the perspective of a pregnant woman written by and starring the “Broad City” co-creator: “I’m lending myself to what the character needs to go through and we’re capturing that.”
🕯️ Remembering: Max Rosenthal, a Holocaust survivor and frequent character in the TV work of his son, “Everybody Loves Raymond” creator Phil, died at age 95.
Gif of the Day
In honor of the final broadcast in his Hall of Fame career, legendary sports broadcaster Marv Albert, famous for his emphatic “Yes!” after many a successful basket, was presented with a replica of the Larry O’Brien trophy before Game Two of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.
Award-winning actor, film director, composer and comedian, Mel Brooks (born Melvin James Kaminsky) turns 95…
Laguna Woods, Calif., resident and a retired hospital administrator, Saretta Platt Berlin turns 91… Former U.S. senator from Michigan, Carl Levin turns 87… Owner of NYC’s United Equities Companies, Moses M. Marx turns 86… Former member of Congress for 16 years and now a distinguished fellow and president emerita of the Wilson Center, Jane Harman turns 76… Political consultant, community organizer and author, he is married to Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Robert Creamer turns 74… Novelist, journalist and senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, Mark Helprin turns 74… Author of crime fiction, Peter Abrahams turns 74… Documentary producer, James Ruxin turns 73… West Orange, N.J. resident, Saralee Rosen turns 73… Professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, Kenneth Alan Ribet turns 73… Managing shareholder of the Tampa office of Carlton Fields, Nathaniel Doliner turns 72… Rabbi and historian, he is the author of the 2017 book Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court: From Brandeis to Kagan, David G. Dalin turns 72…
Former member of the California State Senate and the State Assembly, Martin Jeffrey “Marty” Block turns 71… Retired partner at Chicago-based accounting firm of Morrison & Morrison, Mark Zivin turns 70… Founding partner of NYC law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres, Marc Kasowitz turns 69… Israeli journalist for Haaretz, Amira Hass turns 65… Chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation, Brian L. Roberts turns 62… Rabbi of the Har Bracha community, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed turns 60… Principal of GPS Investment Partners, chairman of Chiron Investment Management, former president of Apollo Global Management, Marc Spilker turns 57… Actress and singer, Jessica Hecht turns 56… Diplomatic correspondent for Al-Monitor based in DC, Laura Rozen turns 52… Novelist and short story writer, Aimee Bender turns 52… Israeli actress in Los Angeles, Ayelet Zurer turns 52… Centibillionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk turns 50… Former member of Knesset, Michal Biran turns 43… Toltzy Kornbluh… and her twin sister, Chany Stark turn 40… UAE-based businessman, Naum Koen turns 40… Recent graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center, Molly Rosen turns 29… Mark Winkler…