👋 Good Wednesday morning!
The Macher is back in Virginia. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe won yesterday’s Democratic primary for governor and will go on to the November election against Republican nominee and former Carlyle Group CEO Glenn Youngkin. Read our March interview with McAuliffe.
Facebook political ad spending trends have shifted since the start of the Biden administration. Data shows that topics like “foreign policy,” “climate” and “voting rights” have gained share against “fake news,” “Antifa,” and “far-left.”
The Senate’s Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism relaunched with 56 members, 21 of them new, co-chairs Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) announced Tuesday afternoon.
Israel reportedly launched its first airstrike in a month against Syrian targets. Late last night, Israeli warplanes allegedly struck targets in Homs, Latakia, and Hama, killing five Syrian soldiers and three foreign fighters, per the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Syrian state media reported intercepting an Israeli missile strike over Damascus, according to some sources, aimed at Iranian-backed militias.
A contentious right-wing Israeli Flag March through Jerusalem’s Old City was approved by the Israeli cabinet yesterday. Now set for June 15th, two days after the Knesset’s investiture vote, the parade route is still under negotiation, as security officials endeavor to reroute away from Muslim neighborhoods. The Flag March usually takes place during May’s Jerusalem Day, but was postponed this year by Hamas rocket salvos.
Vox released the results of a poll with Data For Progress on American attitudes toward the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas. Vox concluded that “Democratic voters are divided” on Biden’s position towards Israel. The poll found that 39% of Democrats supported the Biden administration’s approach to Israel, and 11% wanted the administration to be more pro-Israel, leading some, like Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg, to comment on the incongruence of the line Vox drew between Biden and his voting base.
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For GOP hopefuls, Israel is the new Iowa
After the recent round of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas, several Republican politicians have visited Israel or announced plans to do so: Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, who arrived in Israel days after a cease-fire was announced; Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) visited on congressional delegations; Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Israel last week for a goodbye party for the head of Mossad and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley announced plans to visit with a Christians United for Israel delegation — even though neither of them currently holds public office. It’s still two and a half years before any voters will head to the polls for the 2024 primaries, but potential candidates — like Cruz, Pompeo and Haley, who are all seen as likely 2024 Republican presidential contenders — are often trying to position themselves for the next race. Pompeo, for instance, was spotted in Iowa in March. Like Iowa, visiting Israel might now be a permanent fixture of the early campaign trail, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch and Marc Rod report.
Republican requirement: “I think for Republicans in particular, visiting Israel and being supportive of Israel has now become a requirement,” said Elliott Abrams, currently a senior fellow at the Center on Foreign Relations who served in diplomatic roles in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump. But Abrams notes that politicians’ visits to Israel are not a new phenomenon, even if they have increased in recent years. “This is not new, and I think it’s particularly unsurprising right now, because you’ve got political change happening in Israel, because you just had a war, because you have a new American president who’s just setting his policy toward Israel and the Middle East. So it strikes me as pretty normal and predictable.”
Not everyone: Jewish Insider reached out to nearly a dozen Republicans who are considered to be potential 2024 contenders to see whether any of them have plans to visit Israel in the near future. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told JI that they have no such plans, though all of them have traveled to Israel in the past. Spokespeople for Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Ben Sasse (R-NE); South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem; Texas Gov. Greg Abbott; former Vice President Mike Pence; and Trump did not respond when asked whether they plan to travel to Israel.
First things first: Republican visits to Israel might also be linked to the 2022 midterms, when Republicans will seek to regain control of the House and Senate. “It’s going to be very important for the Republicans to recapture both houses of Congress in 2022,” said Marc Zell, an American attorney who lives in Israel and is the chairman of the Israel chapter of Republicans Abroad. “I think we have a really good chance of doing that, and Israel is part of the formula that many candidates will adopt as they prepare for 2022.”
Blinken dodges questions on Iran negotiations during Senate hearings
Secretary of State Tony Blinken was grilled on a range of aspects of the administration’s plans for dealing with Iran during his second consecutive day of back-to-back hearings on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, this time facing the Senate Appropriations and Foreign Relations Committees. During Tuesday’s hearings, Blinken was pressed for more details on numerous issues covered the day before in front of corresponding House committees, particularly relating to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
What does it mean: Asked by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) about the Biden administration’s pledge to reach a “longer and stronger” agreement with Iran, Blinken said, “We have to look at specific aspects, whether there are areas where we can get even stronger commitments from Iran,” without specifying what “stronger commitments” might entail. Asked by Jewish Insider after the hearing if Blinken had adequately answered his question, Menendez bluntly answered, “No.”
Looking in: Regarding nuclear inspections, Blinken responded that the U.S. “would be in an even better place to insist on [Iran’s] answering those questions” if the JCPOA were restored, without specifying exactly what that path might look like. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), who questioned Blinken on the topic, told JI he planned to follow up with the secretary after the hearing for a “more concrete answer.”
No deal: Although he called it “compelling,” Blinken dismissed as unviable a plan for an alternate nuclear deal proposed recently by Menendez and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), which would create a nuclear fuel bank for Iran and the Gulf states and ban Iran from enriching domestically. Blinken noted that Iran rejected similar proposals that had been offered by Obama administration officials. Graham, in response, urged the administration to “maybe not take no for an answer.”
No pressure: Republicans have frequently made the case that the Trump administration’s strategy of ending the nuclear agreement and applying “maximum pressure” sanctions was successful, a claim Blinken repeatedly pushed back on in Tuesday’s hearings.“All of the egregious actions… that Iran is engaged in are happening under ‘maximum pressure.’ It’s gotten worse, not better,” he said. “So that effort did not solve the problem, a problem we all acknowledge. Whether we like it or not — and we don’t like it — Iran has been engaged in these activities.”
Sanctions shutdown: Blinken also declined to commit to keeping sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran or the country’s national oil company, should the U.S. rejoin the JCPOA. “Our responsibility would be to lift sanctions inconsistent with the JCPOA, but to resolutely maintain sanctions that are consistent with it to deal with the multiplicity of Iran’s malign actions in a whole series of areas,” Blinken said. “I would anticipate that even in the event of a return to compliance with the JCPOA, hundreds of sanctions would remain in place, including sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. If they are not inconsistent with the JCPOA, they will remain unless and until Iran’s behavior changes.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who pressed Blinken on the issue, told JI, “he did not give a clear answer, and it seemed at odds with the commitment he made during his nomination.”
Manhattan borough president candidate Mark Levine calls for doubling hate crimes budget
Mark Levine, a New York City councilmember and a leading candidate for Manhattan borough president, is calling for a dramatic budget increase for the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes as acts of violence against Jews and Asian-Americans have risen sharply in recent months. “This is a big mandate,” he told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in an interview on Tuesday. “It’s why we want to increase the resources at this time of crisis in our battle against hate crimes.”
Doubling the budget: The office currently operates with an annual budget of approximately $700,000 for a staff of seven, along with $3 million for an initiative that helps fund six organizations, including the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, dedicated to the advancement of community-based solutions for preventing hate crimes. “We want both of those doubled,” Levine said.
Alarming stats: According to a recent report from the New York City Police Department, anti-Asian hate crimes surged by 335% this year, with 87 known incidents between January and May. Last month, amid mounting violence between Israel and Hamas, the NYPD documented 26 antisemitic hate crimes in New York, a significant increase over the previous year.
New curriculum: Levine argued that the office should prioritize revamping the city’s public school curriculum, with added emphasis on the history of antisemitism and other forms of oppression. “Ignorance is fertile ground for hate,” said Levine, who is Jewish, “and so improving the curriculum in our schools to tell the story of the Jewish people and African-Americans and Asian-Americans and others is absolutely critical.”
‘Critical moment’: Expanding the hate crimes budget, Levine said, would allow the office to contract more efficiently with community groups while working with city agencies that can be mobilized to prevent hate crimes, such as the departments of education, health and mental hygiene and homeless services. “All of them need to be mobilized now,” Levine said. “This is a critical moment in this battle, and the work of this office is more important than ever.”
🎼 More Than a One Hit Wonder: Rolling Stone’s David Browne interviews Secretary of State Tony Blinken about his exploits as an amateur guitarist and rock and roll aficionado. “Shortly before the latest flare-up in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Blinken agreed to talk with Rolling Stone about his rock & roll jones. That crisis and other pressing issues delayed the conversation, but last week, Blinken finally found time to talk. ‘I tell you, it’s a pleasure to do,’ he says about carving out time for such an unusual conversation. ‘And it’s a nice change of pace from, say, Middle East peace.’” [RollingStone]
🤝 Aligned Interests: In Foreign Policy, Anchal Vohra evaluates the Abraham Accords in the wake of Israel’s war with Hamas, arguing that Arab countries favored maintaining their relations with Israel over Palestinian solidarity. “Israel’s disproportionate use of force against the Palestinians bothered its newest Arab partners but not enough to question the normalization of relations created by last year’s Abraham Accords. Those diplomatic deals triggered billions of dollars of economic activity and bolstered national security for Israel and the four Arab countries involved. No one was interested in sacrificing those gains… It was an early test of the theory that peace in the Middle East would be attained not in exchange for land but for the sake of business and mutual protection against common enemies.” [ForeignPolicy]
Around the Web
♻️ Not Easy Being Green: Israel will shut down its industrial zone in Haifa Bay and turn the area into an eco-friendly residential and commercial area.
💥 Targeted Strike: Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and the U.N. Gilad Erdan told Associated Press executives that Hamas was developing a system to disrupt the Iron Dome defense system from the building housing the AP’s Gaza newsroom, which was demolished in a strike during last month’s conflict.
🇪🇬 Diplomatic Meetings: Leaders from the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, including Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, met separately with Egyptian officials on Tuesday in Cairo.
🇱🇧 Dire Straits: In Beirut, a crumbling economy, last year’s explosion in the Lebanese capital’s port and the pandemic have created a perfect storm that devastated the city’s nightlife and hobbled efforts to rebuild.
🛑 Terrorists Stopped: Italian police dismantled a neo-Nazi organization targeting Jews and planning an attack on a NATO facility.
⌚ Telling Time: Israeli watchmaker Itay Noy released a new, unconventional watch design, which features rainbow colors and numbers that rotate around the dial.
💬 Written Word: Israeli company Verbit raised $157 million in a recent funding round, pitching itself as the future of the transcription industry. The start-up employs both humans and AI to convert speech to text.
☮️ No Hate: Arizona Governor Doug Ducey forcefully condemned an act of antisemitic vandalism at a Tucson synagogue, tweeting “Anti-Semitism has NO place in Arizona and this behavior cannot be tolerated.”
🏢 New Gig: Robert Wexler, who was reportedly under consideration to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel, was named managing director of Ballard Partners’ Washington office.
🚇 Promotion: Sarah Feinberg, who has served as interim president of the New York City Transit Authority since March 2020, is expected to be nominated to lead New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, where she will be the first woman to hold the position.
🥯 Mazel Tov: New York Bagel — located in Metro Detroit and earlier this year named one of the best bagel shops in America — is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
🗣️ Heard Last Night: At the American Jewish Committee’s virtual Global Forum last night, Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss spoke about the recent uptick in antisemitism. “Part of what makes a civilization civil is the ability to stay outraged by outrageous things and the current demonization of Israel is an outrage,” Stephens noted. Watch the full conversation here.
Song of the Day
Following the recent tragedy in Meron, singer-songwriter Eitan Katz released a new song titled “No Words” that Katz says “expresses my personal longing and yearning to be comfortable with not understanding, with not knowing.”
Producer and screenwriter, Aaron Benjamin Sorkin turns 60…
Standup comedian Jackie Mason turns 93… Longtime journalist at CBS and the founding director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, Marvin Kalb turns 91… Retired Israeli diplomat who served as ambassador to Italy and France, and World Chairman of Keren Hayesod — United Israel Appeal, Aviezer “Avi” Pazner turns 84… Author of twelve books and founding editor of Ms. Magazine, Letty Cottin Pogrebin turns 82… British businessman and co-founder with his brother of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, which became the largest in the world, Charles Saatchi turns 78… Diplomat, historian and former national editor of Washingtonian magazine, Kenneth Adelman turns 75… Founder and chairman of Commonwealth Financial Network and chairman of Southworth Development, Joseph Deitch turns 71… Professional mediator and previously a syndicated advice columnist, Wendy J. Belzberg turns 63…
Israel’s minister of defense and alternate prime minister as the head of the Blue and White party, he was previously the IDF’s chief of general staff, Benjamin “Benny” Gantz turns 62… Canadian journalist and film producer, Steven Hillel Paikin turns 61… Former lead singer of the Israeli pop rock band Mashina, Yuval Banay turns 59… VP of legal solutions at Guidepoint, Craig Appelbaum turns 51… Screenwriter, director and producer, Hayden Schlossberg turns 43… Founder and CEO of Delve LLC, he was previously a White House Jewish liaison, Jeff Berkowitz turns 42… Jerusalem-born actress, producer and director, Natalie Portman turns 40… Online producer, writer and director whose “React” video series has over 12.5 billion views on YouTube, Rafi Fine turns 38… Independent writer, Haley Cohen Gilliland turns 32… Managing principal at D.C.-based Precision Strategies, Jeff Solnet turns 29… Ice hockey player for the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and best-selling author of children’s books, Zachary Martin Hyman turns 29… Founder and CEO of Team Brotherly Love and The Fine Companies, Daniel Fine turns 28… Emilia Levy turns 3…