👋 Good Thursday morning!
President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett are scheduled to meet at 11:30 a.m. ET today at the White House. Iran will be the main theme of the inaugural meeting between the two leaders, with Bennett commenting prior to his trip that he planned to emphasize Israeli opposition to any return to the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Accompanying the prime minister to the White House will be Dr. Eyal Hulata, Israel’s head of National Security Council, Bennett’s Chief of Staff Tal Gan-Zvi, Cabinet Secretary Shalom Shlomo, Military Secretary Lt. Gen. Avi Gil, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. and U.N. Gilad Erdan and Shimrit Meir, foreign policy advisor to the prime minister.
In meetings held Wednesday with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Iran likewise took center stage, with leaders highlighting the strong strategic and security ties between the two countries. Bennett’s office said in a statement following his meeting with Austin that the two discussed “regional, diplomatic and security issues, especially the ways to block Iran’s regional aggression and the progress of its nuclear program.” More below.
Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Peter Meijer (R-MI) are facing criticism from leaders in both parties for their surprise trip to Afghanistan. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said, “I don’t think it’s right they went” but offering the caveat, “I understand their frustration of why they would want to go.” Two additional lawmakers are reportedly planning their own visits.
Moulton and Meijer explained their thinking in an interview with The New York Times. “Almost every veteran in Congress wants to extend the Aug. 31 deadline, including us, and our opinion on that was changed on the ground, because we started the evacuations so late. There’s no way we can get everyone out, even by Sept. 11. So we need to have a working relationship with the Taliban after our departure. And the only way to achieve that is to leave by Aug. 31,” Moulton said.
Meanwhile, the situation at Kabul airport continues to deteriorate. On Wednesday evening, the State Department urged U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport without specific instructions and told citizens at the airport gates to leave immediately amid escalating threats from ISIS.
Pro-Israel America announces new round of congressional endorsements
Pro-Israel America will release its latest round of congressional endorsements today as the bipartisan advocacy group “continues to ramp up” engagement ahead of next year’s midterm elections, Jeff Mendelsohn, PIA’s executive director, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “We are excited to announce 11 newly endorsed 2022 candidates who have proven to be leaders on issues related to the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
Democratic corner: The new batch of candidates includes five Republican and six Democrats, three of whom — Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) — are facing primary challenges from progressive activists in the coming cycle. Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY), Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Joyce Beatty (D-OH), who are also set to receive nods from PIA, fended off Democratic primary opponents in 2020 but have yet to attract new challengers this year.
GOP side: The GOP candidates PIA is endorsing include Reps. Andy Barr (R-KY), Rodney Davis (R-IL), David Joyce (R-OH), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Tom Emmer (R-MN), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Growing list: With its new slate of endorsements, PIA is now backing 67 candidates in the 2022 midterms, its support split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans. PIA is already at work on another batch of endorsements, according to a spokesperson. “The pro-Israel grassroots community has demonstrated time and time again its conviction and willingness to step up for candidates who value the U.S.-Israel relationship,” Mendelsohn said, “most recently with Shontel Brown’s big primary victory” over Nina Turner, a progressive stalwart and Israel critic endorsed by Justice Democrats, in Cleveland’s special election.
Aggressive approach: Though the midterms are still far on the horizon, PIA has nevertheless been aggressively focused on rolling out its endorsements over the past few months — in contrast to the majority of national pro-Israel groups, whose endorsements are largely still pending. Democratic Majority for Israel and the Jewish Democratic Council of America have yet to reveal whom they are supporting, while J Street and the Republican Jewish Coalition have only announced a smattering of endorsements.
pm about town
Iran takes center stage during Bennett meetings with Austin, Blinken
Iran was front and center during Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s meetings Wednesday with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Tony Blinken on his first trip to Washington since becoming Israel’s leader, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
View from the Pentagon: In remarks on Wednesday, Austin was upfront that Iran would be the prime focus of conversation. “Mr. Prime Minister, I look forward to a frank discussion today about Iran’s alarming nuclear steps and continued regional aggression,” Austin said. “Iran must be held accountable for acts of terrorism and aggression, whether in the Middle East or in international waters, like the July 30th attack on the Mercer Street commercial [oil] vessel.” In remarks before their meeting Austin also highlighted the administration’s support for replenishment of the Iron Dome missile-defense system, explaining that the administration is working to provide Congress “all the necessary information to respond positively to your request for $1 billion in emergency funding.” Austin’s remarks are the first time the administration has explicitly expressed public support for the full $1 billion request. Administration officials told a Senate subcommittee recently that fulfilling that request is, at this point, Congress’s responsibility.
View from Foggy Bottom: Blinken also highlighted concerns about Iran. “We look forward to addressing all of these challenges that we face, particularly regional security and the deep concerns that we share about Iran and the role that it’s playing in the region, including its nuclear program,” he said. Blinken also praised Israel’s recent normalization of relations with several Arab states as “a very important development and one that we look forward to helping to build on.” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement after the meeting that in addition to discussing Iran, Blinken “emphasized that Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and dignity, which is important in its own right and as a means to advance prospects for a two-state solution.”
View from AIPAC: Earlier Wednesday, Bennett met with AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr. Bennett “thanked AIPAC CEO Kohr for the organization’s steadfast support for the State of Israel and noted that he views its activity as a leading and integral factor in strengthening Israel’s standing in the US” and the two “agreed to remain in close contact,” according to an Israeli government summary of the meeting.
Bonus: A readout from Blinken’s office following the meeting also noted that the secretary of state “agreed on the importance of working toward Israel’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program in order to benefit both U.S. citizens and Israeli citizens.” Israel has been pushing the administration for inclusion in the coveted program, which currently allows citizens of some 39 countries to enter the United States for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa.
A ‘military rabbi’ reflects on his service in Afghanistan
Until his retirement five years ago, Rabbi Irving Elson was the highest-ranking Jewish chaplain in the Marine Corps. He served in the U.S. military for 30 years, with deployments to countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Italy and Japan. And though he no longer ministers directly to troops and senior military officials, he is confronting a new spiritual challenge — a sense of despair and frustration among troops and chaplains he served with in Afghanistan who are now watching the country fall into the hands of the Taliban, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Hard to process: “How do you process everything that’s going on there in terms of your service there? And I think, without exception — and I feel this myself — that we did the best we can,” said Elson, who now serves as director of the Jewish Welfare Board’s Jewish Chaplains Council, which supports and advocates for Jewish military chaplains. “We helped people until we were not able to help people. As I talk to my rabbis, that’s really what I say.”
Feet in boots: “You’ve heard the expression ‘boots on the ground.’ We have very, very little, if any, say where the boots on the ground go. But we’re taking care of the feet that are in those boots. And that’s our mission,” Elson explained.
Get help: Some veterans are left wondering whether there was a point to their service in Afghanistan, and to their injuries and the deaths of their friends. “I hope these next few months don’t increase the number of suicides with Afghan veterans,” said Jeffrey Blonder, a Naval reservist who served for 15 months in Afghanistan. Roughly 18 veterans die by suicide daily, according to figures from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA has recently released resources for Afghanistan veterans who are struggling.
Persisting myths: Now that he is out of the service, Elson speaks to Jewish congregations around the U.S. about Jewish troops, where he frequently addresses myths held by some American Jews about the military. “The biggest misconception is that Jews don’t serve,” Elson explained. There are some 10,000 Jews serving on active duty now. “It is a very honorable, Jewish thing to serve in the U.S. military,” Elson argued. “This country has been just so welcoming and open to our people.”
🤝 Heard Yesterday: Author Micah Goodman, an unofficial counsel to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, told NPR’s Daniel Estrin that Israel’s new government could be a model for how to unite different political ideologies. “Here in a world that’s polarized, Israel is performing an experiment in politics where the equivalent of Elizabeth Warren and the equivalent of Ted Cruz are working together… It’s trying to model for the world that it’s possible for opposites to work together. And how? If we replace idealism with pragmatism. And the example we’re working on here is not fulfilling our dreams to end the conflict, but, yes, working forward towards shrinking the conflict.” [NPR]
🗳️ On the Trail: Generation Z activists who traveled to Ohio’s 11th Congressional District to support Democratic primary candidate (and eventual winner) Shontel Brown in the special election earlier this month detailed their get-out-the-vote efforts and on-the-ground strategy in an opinion piece in the Washington Jewish Week. “Whether in WhatsApp groups or email inboxes, Cleveland’s Orthodox Jews were hearing the arguments for Brown loud and clear. They were hearing them from trusted sources — friends, teachers, rabbis, neighbors. By the time we arrived, few potential voters needed to be convinced that Shontel Brown was the better candidate. Therefore, our work centered on mobilization and getting out the vote, not persuasion.” [WashingtonJewishWeek]
⚠️ Caution: In Tablet, Lee Smith recommends that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett point to the example of Afghanistan to argue against creating a Palestinian state ahead of the PM’s visit with President Joe Biden today. “Bennett knows it would be more polite to nod along meaningfully with his hosts and that he’d insult them by explaining Palestinian statehood is a hallucination on the level of Afghani democracy,” Smith writes. “Speaking up, however, would nonetheless help safeguard the interests of his own country, while winning the favor of an American public that has seen their elites throw away the lives of thousands of the country’s most high-spirited and honorable young men and women to satisfy their whimsy.” [Tablet]
Around the Web
🗣️Speaking Out: Progressive Democrats, including Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Cori Bush (D-MO), Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Marc Pocan (D-WI), known for their backing of Palestinian causes, are condemning the Palestinian Authority for human rights abuses following the arrests of more than two dozen protesters over the weekend.
💸 New Project: Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank is launching an internal investment fund that will back small companies and entrepreneurs working in the sports industry.
😋 Shanah Tova: Today previews popular Rosh Hashanah dishes as the holiday approaches.
📺 Coming Soon: Monica Lewinsky and actress Beanie Feldstein, who plays Lewinsky in the upcoming season of “American Crime Story,” gave a joint interview to The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the season’s September 7 debut.
🎞️ Cutting Board: Filmmaker Spike Lee announced he will edit the final episode of an upcoming four-part documentary on Sept. 11 after receiving criticism for including an interview with Richard Gage, an antisemitic conspiracy theorist.
📚 Book Shelf: Roxane van Iperen’s The Sisters of Auschwitz, a Dutch bestseller to be released in English next month, details the efforts of two sisters who created a Jewish cultural hub and safehouse in their home outside Amsterdam during World War II.
🎓 Revoked: Princeton University terminated an agreement with Ron Perelman, which would have given the investor naming rights to a new residential college at the school, after he failed to pay the agreed-upon $65 million.
🎺 Welcome to Miami: The Doral Yard, owned by Della Heiman Goldkind’s Yard Hospitality, has become a cultural hub in the Miami neighborhood known as Downtown Doral for individuals looking for live music.
❓Call for Clarification: Top rabbis in Israel are asking Pope Francis to clarify comments he made this week suggesting that the Torah was obsolete.
✈️ Let’s Make a Deal: Israel Aerospace Industries inked an agreement with Etihad Airways Engineering to build a facility in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates’s capital city, that will convert passenger planes into cargo aircraft.
🏝️ Island Living: Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted he was paying for his Hawaii vacation after raising eyebrows for staying on Lanai Island, whose owner, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, is a witness in the former premier’s graft trial.
🚀 Blame Game: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz accused Iran of launching a drone strike on the Mercer Street oil tanker, killing two people.
🕵️ Spy Story: NPR’s “All Things Considered” looks at the NSO Group’s business practices months after a leak indicated that the Israeli company had provided surveillance technology to foreign governments that were used to target dissidents, activists and journalists, among others.
🏥 Hitech Healthtech: Israeli healthtech company DiA Imaging Analysis closed a $14 million Series B round of funding, which will help the company expand its efforts to branch out to ultrasound vendors.
💼 Transition: Katherine Schneider, who previously served as deputy communications director for Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), will become communications director for Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM). (h/t Playbook)
🕯️ Remembering: Furniture manufacturer Alan Heller died at 81.
Pic of the Day
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett prays on his first morning in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
Mayor of Tel Aviv since 1998, Ron Huldai turns 77…
Rabbi (now emeritus) of Congregation Beth Jacob of Atlanta, Rabbi Emanuel Feldman turns 94… Financial advisor in the Baltimore office of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, George Strum turns 83… CEO of Siegelvision, Alan Siegel turns 83… Owner of You Save On Meds, Martin J. Portnoy turns 78… Partner at the DC law firm of Williams & Connolly, Robert B. Barnett turns 75… Former Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives, Irving Slosberg turns 74… Sales representative for ADT Security, Jay Caplan turns 73… Co-owner of August Moon Imports and World Tae Kwon Do Center, Jane August turns 70… Board chair of Gap, a retail chain founded by his parents, Robert J. Fisher turns 67… EVP and managing director of polling and consulting firm The Mellman Group, Michael J. Bloomfield turns 65… Journalist and co-author of the Freakonomics series, Stephen J. Dubner turns 58…
Member of the Maryland Senate since 2020, Shelly L. Hettleman turns 57… President of NARAL Pro-Choice America until three months ago, Ilyse Hogue turns 52… CFO at Cornerstone OnDemand, Perry Wallack turns 52… CEO of Fast Forward Innovations, a Canadian venture capital firm, Lorne Abony turns 52… Partner at Silly Zak’s Gluten Free Bakery in Medford, Ore., Robert Sacks turns 51… Senior associate dean at the Olin Business School of Washington University in St. Louis, Steven Malter turns 48… Deputy general counsel at ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the coordinator of the Internet’s naming system), Samantha Eisner turns 46… Founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based consulting and PR firm Inside Revolution, Ariel Maurice “Ari” Ratner turns 41… Rapper, known professionally as Kosha Dillz, Rami Matan Even-Esh turns 40… Member of the Knesset for Yesh Atid, she serves as minister for social equality and minorities, Meirav Cohen turns 38… John Train… Carrie Shapiro…