👋 Good Wednesday morning!
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrived in Washington Tuesday night for two days of meetings. Absent from the delegation: Bennett’s pick for Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Herzog, who is awaiting government confirmation.
Bennett is scheduled to meet with AIPAC leadership this morning before separate afternoon meetings with Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. He’ll meet with President Joe Biden on Thursday.
In an interview with The New York Times ahead of his trip, Bennett said the main goal of the meetings is to reiterate Israel’s opposition to American-led attempts to return to the nuclear agreement with Iran and continue Israel’s covert attacks on Iran’s nuclear program.
He highlighted that the visit would be used to reset the tone of Israel’s relationship with the United States and show that Israel has moved on from former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I call it the good-will government,” Bennett told the Times. “There’s a new dimension here — coming up with new ways to address problems, being very realistic, very pragmatic, and being reasonable with friends.”
Bennett said he will seek common ground with the Biden administration on Iran and present the White House with a new and constructive approach to containing Iran’s nuclear program, including strengthening ties with Arab countries opposed to Iran’s regional influence and nuclear ambitions.
The Israeli prime minister said he does not see an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement forming during his tenure and, despite Biden’s opposition, said he would continue allowing for natural expansion of Israeli communities in the West Bank. Bennett also appeared unsupportive of American plans to reopen the U.S. consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem. “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” he told the Times. “It’s not the capital of other nations.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) committed to passing the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill by September 27 “with a commitment to rally House Democratic support for its passage,” ending a stalemate with a group of centrist Democrats led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ). Democrats voted unanimously in favor of the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget blueprint after her announcement.
Pelosi also agreed to only bring forward a budget package that can pass the Senate, signaling that the $3.5 trillion total will likely have to be decreased.
She specifically praised Gottheimer, saying, “I thank Congressman Gottheimer and others for their enthusiastic support for the infrastructure bill and know that they also share in the Build Back Better vision of President Biden.”
The House Progressive Caucus reiterated that its members will not vote for the infrastructure bill until the budget bill passes. With the House not set to vote again until September 20 and specific programs and spending levels in the budget still up for debate, it will be difficult to finish and pass the budget before September 27.
Arab-Israeli Knesset Member Said al-Harumi, 49, died from a sudden heart attack early Wednesday morning. The MK, from the Ra’am party, will be replaced by Iman Khatib-Yassin, who will return to the Knesset as the only hijab-wearing lawmaker.
Israel’s President Isaac Herzogtweeted in Hebrew and Arabic that he was “shocked and pained by the untimely passing of my friend Said al-Harumi, the chairman of the Knesset Interior Committee and a man of the Negev. In his many roles, al-Harumi was a wise and amicable public servant who faithfully represented the Bedouin community in the Negev. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.”
McMaster warns U.S. ‘creating hostage crisis’ with Afghanistan deadline
Former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster warned that the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan could lead to the largest American hostage situation in history, should the Biden administration hold to the August 31 deadline to withdraw all forces from the country. Speaking on Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast,” McMaster, a retired army lieutenant general, predicted the loss of life could outpace that of the September 11 attacks.
Crisis: “We’re gonna leave American citizens in Afghanistan if we adhere to this capitulation agreement. August 31, that means we just have to start scaling down, like tomorrow,” McMaster said. “We’re gonna leave Americans behind. We’re creating a hostage crisis. We’re creating maybe even potential for losses greater than 9/11 on our way out. And nobody’s talking about that.” President Joe Biden reiterated his commitment to the deadline in remarks at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, but admitted the timeline could be adjusted “should that become necessary.”
Plan of Action: Even with an extension of the deadline, McMaster argued that increased U.S. military action might be required, including the retaking of additional airfields in Afghanistan to continue moving evacuees out. “We have military units that are designed specifically to do that, to take airfields,” McMaster told podcast co-hosts Richard Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein. “I mean, they’re ready to go right now. But, sadly, I think we lack the will to do what’s necessary to get our own citizens out, you know, let alone the courageous Afghans who have helped us and who are now at risk along with their families. And it’s going to be just heart-wrenching.”
Wrong Assumption: “I think [President Biden] was operating under the assumption that there are no negative consequences for losing a war. What we’re seeing is just the beginning of these consequences. From a humanitarian perspective, it’s going to be a worse humanitarian catastrophe,” said McMaster. “But as we’ve been discussing, there’s also security consequences and reputational consequences that we haven’t even begun to realize yet.”
Mind on Pakistan: McMaster drew a direct line between the U.S.’s handling of Afghanistan and Pakistan, arguing that a lenient approach of “serial gullibility” towards Pakistan led to a stronger Taliban. “The Pakistani army has been supporting not only the Taliban, but a whole range of jihadist terrorist organizations, who are great threats to all humanity,” he said. “We never dealt with the Pakistanis the way we should have, which is to cast them as the pariah state that they should be. Pakistan is a ward of the Gulf states of the Emiratis and the Saudis. And if we have any influence left with them at this stage, we should say, ‘Hey listen, time to cut them off.’ And then we should begin to apply sanctions to the Pakistani leadership, [the] army leadership, who helped the Taliban destroy girls schools in Afghanistan while they send their kids to private schools in the West. Let’s sanction those families. Let’s cut off their funds. Let’s take a stand on Pakistan. Now, as we see the catastrophe in Afghanistan that they have helped to bring about.”
Bonus: Favorite American military leaders? “It’s a combination, I would have to say, of George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant. Both of them understood the nature of the conflict that they were in, and they were able to meld together what was essential to win the war, politically, as well as militarily, and both of them saw opportunities where others only saw danger.”
New report: Antisemitic videos spreading undetected on TikTok
The celebratory, familiar sound of “Hava Nagila.” A video clip of John Travolta in “Pulp Fiction.” An upbeat indie pop song by the band Fitz and the Tantrums. Three unrelated cultural references. Yet all have been used to propagate antisemitism on the social media platform TikTok, according to a new report from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based think tank that studies extremism and misinformation, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. ISD’s report comes as social media platforms have struggled in recent years to counter violent and hateful content.
TskTsk: The report, a copy of which was obtained by JI, highlights the surprising ways in which TikTok users advance antisemitic narratives on the video-sharing application, which was the most downloaded app in the world in 2020. Content creators use code words and numbers, duplicate accounts, misspelled hashtags and more to evade detection on the platform.
Keeping it hidden: “Extremists are going to find a way to share their message,” said Carla Hill, associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “We’ll see a video of something entirely different and during that video, they’ll hold up a sign that says something extreme” — for instance, holding up a book promoting violence or espousing extremism — “or send the viewer to an extreme website. This type of content is so difficult to moderate.”
What it looks like: One video with nearly 25,000 views uses the so-called “Confused Travolta” meme — which shows John Travolta’s character in “Pulp Fiction” walking around and looking confused — with the caption “me in heaven looking for the 6 million,” an oblique reference to Holocaust denial. A video from one account shows a baby crying, until he is given a paper described as “heresy,” as “Hava Nagila” plays in the background. Another video, set to the lyrics of Fitz Tantrum’s “Out of My League,” has the words “America First” above a slideshow of fascist flags and images of Father Charles Coughlin, the isolationist, antisemitic priest who was popular in the 1930s.
Persuading young people: More than half of TikTok users in the U.S. are under 30. “Young minds are easier to influence,” said Hill. ISD found that antisemitism on TikTok manifested most frequently as Holocaust denial, and recent studies show that American young adults know very little about the Holocaust. A September 2020 survey, commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, found that 63% of millennials and Generation Z did not know that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and 10% did not recall ever hearing the word “Holocaust” before.
Soho House expands to Israel
Soho House, the global chain of high-end clubs that debuted on the New York Stock Exchange last month, is finally unveiling its first Israel outpost following a months-long delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a spokesperson for the company confirmed to Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Soft launch: The Tel Aviv club will welcome select “founder members” for a brief soft opening beginning this week before a full opening in September, the spokesperson said. Located in a “turreted building” on 27 Yefet Street near Jaffa’s historic flea market, the Tel Aviv location will offer such amenities as a pool, outdoor bar and 24 bedrooms as well as a garden “dotted with 300-year-old olive trees from Galilee and set beneath a retractable pergola roof,” according to a lavishly worded press release provided to JI in advance of the opening. Its art collection will highlight such Israeli-born artists as Elad Lassry, Tal R, Ilit Azoulay, Shai Yehezkelli and Maayan Elyakim.
COVID challenges: It remains to be seen how the Tel Aviv club will fare as Israel battles the surging Delta variant of the coronavirus. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that Americans should “avoid travel to Israel,” citing a “very high level of COVID-19.” Still, Howard Adler, a professor in the hospitality and tourism management department at Purdue University, said the company’s approach conforms with a broader trend within the industry. “The major hotel companies in the world are still expanding and being aggressive, especially in the luxury end of the market,” he told JI. “Israel is a strong market because it is a unique place which all faiths want to visit,” often “more than once,” Adler said. “I would be bullish for the future of this unique property.”
Going global: Following the June opening of a new Austin, Texas, location, the company plans to break ground over the next few years in Nashville, Tenn., Palm Springs, Calif., Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., and other locations throughout the United States. Outposts in Rome and Paris are scheduled to open this fall, and clubs in far-flung global destinations such as Stockholm, Tokyo, Sydney, and Tulum, Mexico, are on the horizon. Founded in London in 1995, Soho House now operates around 30 clubs worldwide. The newest location in Tel Aviv is the company’s second foray into the Middle East after opening in Istanbul in 2015.
🤝 Best Foot Forward: Writing in CNN, Aaron David Miller suggests that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Joe Biden both stand to benefit from a smooth visit to Washington amid the Biden administration’s first serious foreign policy crisis. “There are significant differences between Israel and the US on several challenging matters — including how to deal with Iran’s nuclear aspirations and the Palestinian issue. But neither Biden nor Bennett is looking for any unpleasantness, let alone a fight. Both have an overriding interest not just in managing these divisions, but in projecting a close and warm relationship.” [CNN]
💪 Stronger Together: Michael Makovsky and John Hannah, president and a senior fellow, respectively, at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, argue in The Hill that Israel is shaping up to be America’s most important ally. They suggest the U.S. must embolden Israel to advance American objectives in the Middle East, including by providing more sophisticated weaponry to the Jewish state. During their upcoming meeting, “[President Joe] Biden and [Israeli Prime Minister Naftali] Bennett should launch a systematic dialogue on reconceiving the U.S.-Israel strategic partnership for the 21st century — with Israel increasingly assuming the front-line burdens for regional security as Washington shifts to a more over-the-horizon role,” they write. [TheHill]
🚧 Condo Collapse: The collapsed Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, Fla., was afflicted with numerous engineering errors, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal’s Konrad Putzier, Scott Calvert and Rachael Levy. “The people who oversaw its planning and construction some 40 years ago made cost-saving choices that generally met the building codes of that era but may have created long-term safety risks… They skipped waterproofing in areas where saltwater could seep into concrete, the available evidence indicates. They put the building’s structural slabs on thin columns without the support of beams in some places. They installed too few of the special heavy walls that help keep buildings from toppling, engineers say, features that could have limited the extent of the collapse. And they appeared to have put too little concrete over rebar in some places and not enough rebar in others, design plans and photos of the rubble indicate.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
📅 Pushing back: Prominent lawmakers are pressingthe administration to extend its August 31 deadline to end evacuation operations in Afghanistan as the Taliban announced it will no longer permit Afghan citizens to access Kabul’s airport.
🛬 Dropping In: Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Peter Meijer (R-MI) made an unauthorized visit to Kabul’s airport on Tuesday, flying out on a flight evacuating U.S. citizens and Afghan allies, a move that angered administration officials.
🗳️ Peach State Politics: Former NFL running back Herschel Walker launched his Senate bid in Georgia yesterday. Walker has the backing of former President Donald Trump heading into the Republican primary for a chance to unseat Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA).
💬 Heard Yesterday: In her first speech as governor, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul quoted Ecclesiastes. “The Bible tells us there is a time for every purpose under heaven,” she said.
💸 Urim and Thummim: Matthew Mendelsohn, who has worked at the Yale Investment Office since 2007, was tapped by the university to manage the school’s $31 billion endowment, following the death of former endowment manager David Swensen.
🎚️ Channel Change: Josh Sapan is stepping down as CEO of AMC Networks after 26 years.
🥗 Going Green: Sweetgreen acquired Boston-based robotic kitchen startup Spyce as part of the company’s efforts to use technology in its food production, a push accelerated by the pandemic.
❓ New Gig: Mayim Bialik, who was recently announced as the host of “Jeopardy!” primetime specials, will take over as interim host of the weekday program following Mike Richards’s abrupt resignation.
📚 Torah Transit: An old family Bible hidden in an attic in Germany during the Holocaust was reunited with its owners’ descendants after a long journey complicated further by the coronavirus pandemic.
💉 Vaccination Nation: Israel extended the eligibility for the COVID-19 booster vaccine to anyone over 30 years of age.
🛫 Sharing Science: Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced that the U.S. sent 500,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to the Palestinian Authority.
😠 Brewing Tensions: Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza in response to recent confrontations along the border with Israel.
🕍 Eye on Jerusalem: The New York Times spotlights the fragile situation at the Temple Mount, where despite the ban on non-Muslim prayer, Jewish worshippers have been given increasing access to the site. On Twitter, Tablet‘s Yair Rosenberg criticized the article for failing to mention the Temple Mount’s importance as the holiest site in Judaism. “The entire story doesn’t make sense if you omit that essential fact,” he wrote.
🥇 First Place Finish: Israeli-Arab swimmer Iyad Shalabi took home gold in the 100-meter backstroke at the Tokyo Paralympics.
🏎️ Nice Ride: Israel is the most expensive country in which to buy a Tesla S, which costs $91,000 for U.S.-based consumers, but runs Israeli buyers $166,000 after taxes.
😋 Cook o’clock: A new Tel Aviv food cultural center with a library, kitchen, rooftop garden and customer cafe will host a series of workshops featuring, among others, kosher cookbook writer Adeena Sussman.
🛢️ Fuel Line: Iran, which has been providing fuel to Lebanon, said it can ship additional fuel to the Mediterranean nation if needed to ease Beirut’s fuel shortage.
Pic of the Day
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu completes his Pilates routine while vacationing in Hawaii.
Actress and musician, Jaclyn Tohn turns 41…
Phoenix-based award winning journalist, Leni Reiss… British novelist, he has been described as the “Jewish Jane Austen,” Howard Jacobson turns 79… Boston resident, Nancy Faneuil King turns 74… Retired after a lengthy career in hotel sales and marketing, Harley Mayersohn… Bass guitarist and co-lead singer of Kiss, Gene Simmons turns 72… Chairman of the board emeritus at the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, Lorin M. Fife… Minister of Intelligence and a member of the Knesset for the Blue and White party, Elazar Stern turns 65… Former program director at the St. Paul, Minnesota JCC, Manfred “Fred” Haeusler turns 62… Former Trump fixer, Michael D. Cohen turns 55… Former Canadian MP, now VP for external affairs and general counsel at Canada’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Richard Marceau turns 51… Founder of 5W Public Relations, Ronn D. Torossian turns 47…
Assistant director of marketing at UJA-Federation of New York, Suzanne Schneider… National program and communications director at the American Zionist Movement, Alicia Post… Sarah Schreiber… Principal at venture capital firm Camber Creek, Nathaniel Loewentheil turns 36… Director of state and local government relations at Philips, Evan Hoffman turns 34… Canadian actress, Stacey Farber turns 34… SVP at public affairs firm SKDK, Daniel Barash turns 34… Manager of business operations at LinkedIn, Sam Michelman turns 32… Partner manager at Facebook, Ryan Kuhel turns 31… Founder and CEO at the Center for Intimacy Justice, Jackie Rotman turns 30… Director of audience and growth at Axios, Neal Rothschild turns 30… Jane Wasserman… Former deputy policy director at the House GOP Conference, Jenna Lifhits… Adam Aryeh Friedman turns 27… Israeli singer-songwriter, Eden Hason turns 27… Carina Grossmann…