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President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Surfside, Fla., today. The Bidens’ visit overlaps with that of Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and U.N. Gilad Erdan, who will arrive in Surfside this afternoon.
Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Peter Meijer (R-MI) and Kathy Manning (D-NC) will be part of next week’s House Foreign Affairs Committee trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA) told Jewish Insider she’s “not sure” if she will be participating in the delegation.
Some members of the committee were never contacted by HFAC leadership about the trip, spokespeople told JI. A spokesperson for Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) told JI that Castro wanted to go “but was informed this trip was at full capacity due to COVID restrictions.” A spokesman for Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) said the delegation “was organized very quickly.”
Other members who confirmed they’re not attending: Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Colin Allred (D-TX) — who recently became a father for the second time — Greg Steube (R-FL), Ami Bera (D-CA), Bill Keating (D-MA), Andy Levin (D-MI), Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Scott Perry (R-PA). Spokespeople for Steube, Perry and Levin told JI the representatives were not invited. It is not common for all or most committee members to join a CODEL.
Pro-Israel America is rolling out a new slate of endorsements today, throwing support behind 20 current House members, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Democratic House candidate Daniel Hernandez, who is running for an open seat in Arizona.
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld died on Tuesday at his home in Taos, N.M. Rumsfeld suffered from multiple myeloma. He was 88.
Former Gov. Chris Christie joins JI’s ‘Limited Liability Podcast’
Former New Jersey governor and rumored 2024 presidential candidate Chris Christie joined “Limited Liability Podcast” co-hosts Richard Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein for a wide-ranging conversation on former President Donald Trump’s level of culpability in the January 6 riot, the mechanics behind the failure of the Obama-Netanyahu relationship and why he believes Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) wanted to leave the Republican leadership.
On January 6th: “January 6th was an awful moment in our country’s history, and something that, as I was watching, I couldn’t believe that I was seeing what I was seeing. I think that what it says is, and I said this at the time, that [Trump] ginned this up over the course of months, not on January 6, but going all the way back to the summer of 2020 when he was talking about the election being stolen. I said this all along, [former Attorney General] Bill Barr has now said this publicly in the last couple of days: There’s just no evidence of it. I mean, I can’t tell you how many really smart people have come up to me and say they believe the election was stolen… Once you gin them up, you can’t control it even if you want to… That’s just unacceptable, unacceptable that the president played any role in that.”
Reimposing Sanctions: Christie said he would support reimposing sanctions on Iran even if the U.S. reentered the nuclear deal. “By the way, sanctions were working against them. And you saw in Iran, uprisings beginning for those who were opposed to the Islamic government, and we need to give that time to continue to play out,” he said, adding, “I think it was a bad move by President Biden” to not impose sanctions and negotiate to reenter the deal.
Principles and principals: “There are any number of instances where I could say to you that I think that Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu could have handled certain things, his relations with the United States, more deftly. Now, I agree with a lot of the policy positions he ultimately took. What I’m talking about is how he handled the relationship. And by the way, so could [former President] Barack Obama have handled that relationship better. In the end, I think that foreign policy is about two ideas: the principles that you share, and the relationship of the principals… That’s where Netanyahu, at times, was not as deft as he could have been. And I think President Obama was not nearly the supporter of Israel that he should have been. And you’re seeing in a lot of the House Democrats that same type of approach.”
Top issues: Asked to name the three top issues Republicans should run on in the midterms, Christie cited education, a rising China and the economy. “China is going to be our adversary for the next 80 years. We better get on understanding that they’re an adversary and start taking much stronger steps towards winning that fight both by strengthening ourselves and weakening the leadership in China… We have a Jimmy Carter-like economy in this country where unemployment remains higher than it should, and inflation winds up getting very high. Jimmy Carter’s the guy in the ‘76 election who coined the phrase ‘misery index,’ the combination of unemployment and inflation — I got a feeling that his buddy Joe Biden is going to be getting whacked around with the same ‘misery index’ that Jimmy Carter created, and which ultimately cost him his presidency.”
On Cheney: “Let me tell you why I think she’s out of leadership. You remember, she said all the things she said, and they had a first vote, and she was kept. Then she kept saying to them over and over and over: ‘Enough. You’re on the record. We heard you.’ Does anybody think that Liz Cheney supports Donald Trump after the first set of statements? You think anybody thinks that she thinks that what happened on January 6th was OK? Do you think anybody thinks that Liz Cheney thinks that Donald Trump actually won the election? Let me tell you what I think: Liz Cheney wanted out of leadership. I think she didn’t like it anymore. And when she won that vote the first time, she said, ‘Oh, God, that didn’t work. OK, let me keep standing.’ And then it finally worked.”
Bonus: Favorite Yiddish word? “Chutzpah and schmuck” said Christie, who relayed he picked up Yiddish words attending more bar and bat mitzvahs than he “could count” growing up in Livingston. Favorite Jewish food? The matzo ball soup from Tabachnicks in Livingston. Favorite Jersey beach? Bayhead in Northern Ocean County, where he and his wife own a beach house. Christie, who sits on the New York Mets’s board of governors, also went on to predict that new owner Steven A. Cohen would bring a World Series to Queens within five years.
Adam Serwer on the ‘Jewish divide’
In his new book of essays, The Cruelty Is the Point: The Past, Present and Future of Trump’s America, the journalist Adam Serwer, 39, examines what he views as a central tension between former President Donald Trump and the American Jewish community. While Trump repeatedly touted his administration’s achievements in the Middle East, the former president was often frustrated that the majority of American Jews did not support him. Serwer, a staff writer at The Atlantic, argues that Jews in the United States largely resisted Trump’s entreaties because the American Jewish civic tradition is rooted in an ethos of liberal pluralism fundamentally at odds with the former president’s political project. In a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, Serwer expanded on that topic and more.
Broader tension: “On the political level, because Americans in general are so supportive of Israel and both parties tend to be very supportive of Israel, the perception is that this is as a result of what American Jews think about Israel, which I feel is not actually the case,” Serwer explained. That dynamic underscores a broader tension, Serwer says, between American Jews and their Israeli counterparts — what he refers to as “the Jewish divide.” “Trump’s enthusiastic reception from the Israeli right misled him into believing that American Jews would be a natural addition to his nationalist coalition. But the majority of American Jews, despite their support for Israel, identify with the cultural and political pluralism that has allowed them to live relatively safe and prosperous lives in the United States.”
‘Liberal Zionist’: Serwer, for his part, said he was raised as a “liberal Zionist,” but his views have since evolved. “My grandmother spoke fluent Hebrew and Yiddish, and lived in Palestine under the [British] mandate. She had a very strong personal connection to Israel, both in a spiritual sense and as an ideological project,” he said. “I think, like most American Jews, I was raised with what I would describe as a liberal Zionist background. My current position is that I favor any settlement that leads to full political rights for all people between the river and the sea, and I am agnostic as to what format that takes, whether it’s two states or one state, as long as it does not result in further violence or denial of fundamental rights.”
Religious values: Serwer, who is Black and Jewish, identifies as Reform and says his faith is essential to his personal and professional life. “I pray,” he said. “I believe in God. My faith is very important to me. It would be very difficult for me to do my job and sort of be in the world without it.” He said that Judaism was “inculcated in me at a young age,” adding: “I think that it definitely became more important to me as I got older. But I don’t think I ever really felt like it was not important. I just think when I was in my early 20s, I was not quite as disciplined about going to temple.”
Keeping the faith: Despite the divisions Serwer outlines, he is ultimately optimistic about the future. “I feel like regardless of how we feel about each other, the fates of Jews around the world are linked regardless of their level of observance or their political views,” he said. “I don’t think that that obligates us to defend a particular political arrangement in the State of Israel. But I do think that, whether or not we like each other, history says that our fates are linked. And I think that’s important.”
Show me the money
House Appropriations proposes increased Palestinian aid, holds NSGP funding steady
The House Appropriations Committee is proposing a budget that more than doubles the funding previously given to support Palestinian projects and aid while adding a number of conditions to security aid to Egypt, according to the budget proposal released by the committee, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The committee also declined to increase funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) in its 2022 budget proposal, despite appeals from numerous Jewish community organizations and a large bipartisan group of House members.
Going strong: The State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs and Defense funding bills include a total of $3.8 billion in aid to Israel — fully fulfilling the annual requirements set forth in the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding — without any added conditions.
Major increase: The State and Foreign Operations bill, which the full committee will vote on today, appropriates at least $225 million in aid for the West Bank and Gaza — a $150 million increase over 2021 funding and $40 million more than what President Joe Biden had requested in his budget.
Behind the scenes: “[Democratic lawmakers] want to reestablish ties with Palestinians,” explained David Schenker, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the former assistant secretary of state for near Eastern affairs. “I think they obviously didn’t agree with the Trump administration’s approach and had wanted to go back to a more traditional funding model for the U.S. and the Palestinians.” However, Republican lawmakers objected to this increase at a subcommittee hearing earlier this week, and experts predict that the increase is unlikely to make it through the full Congress unchanged.
Crackdown: The bill also adds a raft of conditions to portions of U.S. military aid to Egypt, linking pieces of the aid to reforming rule of law and civil rights, the country’s justice system and the treatment of American citizens in Egypt; compensation for American citizens injured by the Egyptian military; and increased U.S. access to monitor how funding is used. Experts said these changes are also unlikely to pass the full Congress.
Home front: The Homeland Security funding bill, released Tuesday, includes a total of $180 million in funding for the NSGP, a Department of Homeland Security grant program that provides funds for houses of worship and other nonprofits to enhance their security. That would hold funding for the program even with 2021 levels, falling short of the $360 million Jewish advocacy groups and the House group requested, even amid a trend of rising antisemitic and other hate crimes.
Pushing for more: Jewish community leaders said they plan to continue to lobby Congress for more funding for the NSGP, and some seemed optimistic that the funding level could increase. They’ll be joined by advocates on Capitol Hill. “We requested funding be doubled again this year because now is not the time for half measures,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), one of the leaders of the House group requesting a funding increase, said in a statement to JI. “We cannot let up our efforts to expose and crush the poison of antisemitism that has been awakened.”
To the rescue
In Surfside, an Israeli medic lends expertise and navigates an unstable rescue site
Israeli medic Dvir Dimri, part of a team of 10 volunteers from the Israeli medical-relief agency SSF-Rescuers Without Borders, has spent several days and nights shuttling between the pile of rubble at Champlain Towers South and a nearby private home trying to console grieving Jewish families amidst the tragedy unfolding in Surfside, Fla., reports Jewish Insider’s Jacob Miller.
Rapid response: The Israeli volunteers were assembled with little notice Sunday afternoon, during a Jewish fast commemorating the breach of Jerusalem in 70 AD. They were given only four hours to travel to Ben Gurion Airport and receive a COVID-19 test before boarding a flight early Monday morning.
Jewish soul: Between shifts, Dimri thinks about the significance of his efforts. Jewish tradition teaches that every soul is a world, which compels the immense sacrifices Israeli volunteers are undergoing to help in the search-and-rescue mission. “If you understand that you are following a value that life is above everything, and that the respect of bodies is above everything, so this is why you stop everything, you put all your money, all your business on the side, and you help to come to work, and you come to do your best.”
Triple mission: Dimri explained the Israeli delegation is focused on three missions: saving survivors, affording dead victims respectful treatment in accordance with Jewish tradition and showing support for the American Jewish community and the wider community affected by the tragedy. The 10-member team is staying at a nearby private home, praying at a local synagogue and offering communal support in addition to technical expertise.
💪 Hard Soft Power: In Newsweek, former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley argues that the Biden administration should lean into American power at the U.N., rather than what Haley characterizes as a conciliatory approach. “As history shows, and as I personally saw, the United States is best at the U.N. when we stand strong. We must stand up to our adversaries, unmistakably and unapologetically… The moment we fail to do any of these things, our adversaries and their lackeys will make the most of it. China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and North Korea get the joke: The U.N. is too dysfunctional, divided and open to dictatorship to be effective.” [Newsweek]
💬 Dark Web: Security and disinformation researchers uncovered an Iranian campaign to infiltrate Israeli activist groups on different messaging platforms to sow discontent among users, The New York Times’s Sheera Frankel reports. “Instead of speaking to broad audiences on Facebook or Twitter, these campaigns stir up antigovernment sentiment and gather information about activists’ protests and organization by focusing on smaller and more private communications on WhatsApp, Telegram and other encrypted chat apps. Because only the senders and receivers can see what is being discussed, the disinformation campaigns are hidden from the tech companies and the authorities.” [NYTimes]
🤝 Ties that Bind: In The National, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his Emirati counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, author a joint op-ed on the ways in which their respective countries “have begun to create a linked and powerful engine of progress and opportunity” in the wake of the Abraham Accords. “The world expected our differences to define us. One of us is a Jew, the other a Muslim. One of us is Israeli, the other Arab. Not only have these characteristics shaped us as human beings, they have also presented an enduring question: Does the past determine the future, or is our fate in our own hands?” [TheNational]
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Around the Web
🏛️ Open Shop: Morocco is planning to turn its diplomatic liaison office in Tel Aviv into an official embassy, concluding the normalization process begun last year.
🏢 Back Channel: Israeli Foreign Ministry officials have reportedly been privately lobbying the State Department against reopening its Jerusalem consulate to avoid creating challenges for the newly formed, fragile Israeli government.
🏘️ Property Deal: Israeli settlers reached a deal with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to evacuate the illegal West Bank outpost of Givat Evyatar, property currently categorized as survey land but also claimed by Palestinian villages, leading to its emergence as a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
✋ Advise and Consent: Eight Republican lawmakers are objecting to President Joe Biden’s nomination of Dilawar Syed as deputy administrator for the Small Business Administration, over his ties to Emgage Action, which they say is “vocally anti-Israel.”
🗽 Empire State: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sharply condemned rising antisemitism and professed strong support for the Jewish state: “New York will always stand with Israel. We share an eternal and unbreakable bond,” he said.
↪️ Job Change: Patrick Gaspard, the former president of George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, will become president and CEO of the Center for American Progress.
🇵🇱 Passing the Buck: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki defended a controversial bill, that would make it difficult for descendents of persecuted Polish Jews to win restitution claims.
📣 New Voice: Two Trump administration officials — Victoria Coates, a former deputy national security adviser for Middle Eastern and North African affairs, and Ellie Cohanim, the former deputy envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism — are launching a think tank that will focus on expanding peace between Israel and more Gulf countries and combating antisemitism.
💵 Campus Beat: The Yale School of Drama is moving to a tuition-free model following a $150 million gift from David Geffen.
🚪 New Digs: A penthouse designed by Emery Roth on the Upper East Side of Manhattan was listed for the first time in decades for $39.5 million.
🌹 Roses are Red: The “Seeing the Invisible” exhibition, which showcases augmented-reality artwork, will open in 12 gardens in six countries in September, including the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in Israel.
🤵 Legal Jeopardy: Trump Organization CFO Allen H. Weisselberg was indicted and is expected to appear in court on Thursday as part of the New York district attorney’s probe into the former president’s business dealings. The Trump Organization itself was also indicted.
✡️ Bad Look: A lawmaker in Washington State posted a video of himself wearing a yellow Star of David in protest of COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
🛑 Naming Haters: CNN profiles Julia Jassey and Blake Flayton, co-founders of Jewish on Campus, a viral Instagram account that chronicles antisemitic incidents occuring on college campuses.
📺 Back in Business: Dan Schneider, Nickelodeon’s former content creator, famous for “iCarly,” is mulling a return to TV, following an abrupt withdrawal from the public eye three years ago.
🎥 Silver Screen: Der Filmverleigh, a German film distributor, boarded J. Frank James’s film trilogy about the Holocaust.
🎙️ New Show: “Entourage” veteran Jeremy Piven plans to launch a new podcast, in which he will interview celebrities.
🎬 Canceled?: John Podhoretz posits that Steven Spielberg could get canceled for his upcoming film “West Side Story” because of Jewish overrepresentation in the production of the movie.
👩👧 Mazal Tov: Actress Gal Gadot gave birth to her third child, a daughter she named Daniella.
↪️Transitions: Rabbi Noah Farkas was named the new president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Michael Schmidt will assume the position of CEO/executive director of the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey.
🕯️ Remembering: Hasidic teacher Rabbi Pinchas Korf died at age 86.
Pic of the Day
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services Rachel Levine host faith leaders in an event supporting the Equality Act.
Born in a DP camp to her Holocaust survivor parents, she is the first Jewish woman to serve on the Canadian Supreme Court (she is retiring today), Rosalie Silberman Abella turns 75…
Former U.S. assistant secretary of education, Diane Silvers Ravitch turns 83… Nobel laureate in Economics for 1997 and co-creator of the Black-Scholes model for valuing options and other derivatives, Myron Scholes turns 80… Noted British art dealer and founder of an eponymous London art gallery, Victoria Marion Miro turns 76… Former U.S. ambassador to Israel and assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, now at the Council on Foreign Relations, Martin Indyk turns 70… Partner in the Century City-based law firm of Greenberg Glusker, Douglas E. Mirell turns 65… Hall of Fame player and coach in the Women’s National Basketball Association and now an NBA broadcaster, Nancy Lieberman turns 63… National editor at The Forward, Rob Eshman turns 61… President of the Orthodox Union and a partner at Ropes & Gray, Mark Irwin “Moishe” Bane turns 61… Under secretary of state for political affairs, Victoria Jane Nuland (family name was Nudelman) turns 60… Journalist, filmmaker and educator, he is the co-founder of Aish[dot]com, Shraga Simmons turns 60… Professor of Jewish thought at Hebrew University, Benjamin Brown turns 55… Member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Marcus Bertram Simon turns 51… U.S. Senator (R-IA), Joni Ernst turns 51… Screenwriter, producer and film director known for romantic comedy films, Marc Silverstein turns 50… Los Angeles resident, Adam B. Siegel turns 45… NASA astronaut, on her 2019 trip to the International Space Station she took along socks with Stars of David and menorahs, Jessica Meir turns 44… Co-founder of Edgeline Films, Elyse Steinberg turns 42…