👋 Good Thursday morning!
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will travel to Washington, D.C., next week for his first meeting with President Joe Biden.
Set to take place on Thursday, August 26, a readout from Bennett’s office said the “visit will strengthen the close partnership between the U.S. and Israel.” The two leaders will discuss a series of diplomatic, economic and security issues, especially the Iranian nuclear issue, the prime minister’s office said.
CIA Director Bill Burns reportedly expressed U.S. concerns with Chinese investments in Israel during a meeting with Bennett last week. “We told the Americans we welcome U.S. infrastructure companies to work on big projects in Israel but they don’t apply to the tenders,” a senior Israeli official explained to Barak Ravid.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi invited Bennett for an official visit to Egypt, the first official Israeli visit since former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled the country in 2011.
The invitation was extended by Egyptian Intelligence Minister Abbas Kamel, who met with Bennett in Jerusalem on Wednesday. The two discussed the diplomatic, security and economic aspects of Israel-Egypt relations. Later in the day, Israel’s National Security Council reduced its travel warning to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula — a popular destination for Israeli tourists — from Level 1, a “very high concrete threat,” to Level 3, a “basic concrete threat.”
Morgan Harper’s entry into Ohio Senate race shakes up Democratic primary
Morgan Harper, a progressive Democrat who ran an unsuccessful campaign to unseat Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) last year in Columbus, is now setting her sights on the Senate. On Wednesday, the former congressional hopeful declared her candidacy in Ohio’s upcoming open-seat election to replace Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who is retiring at the end of his term in 2022. Her announcement on Wednesday, which had been expected, sets up a possibly contentious Democratic primary showdown with Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), the longtime Youngstown congressman who jumped into the race in April, reports Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
On Israel: During her last campaign, Jewish community leaders in Columbus took issue with Harper’s seemingly ambiguous stance on Israel, not least because of her affiliation with Justice Democrats, which had previously characterized Israel as a “human rights violator” and supports conditioning American foreign security assistance to the Jewish state. “She is not so clear on her positions when it comes to things like Israel,” Justin Shaw, director of Jewish community relations at the nonprofit organization JewishColumbus, said of Harper. “We don’t know much of where she stands solidly because I don’t think she’s clearly defined her positions.”
Strategy: It is unclear if Harper will secure another endorsement from Justice Democrats, which could make the race more competitive while lending her campaign a veneer of institutional gravitas within the national progressive fundraising community. “If Harper can raise money and she has a 20% chance at winning while she can highlight progressive issues, then it’s probably worthwhile,” Nathaniel Swigger, a political scientist at The Ohio State University at Newark, told JI. “Ryan is the favorite, but he could stumble. Harper could tap into young voters. There’s so much money sloshing around in electoral politics right now that the standard for ‘viable’ is pretty low.”
Known/Unknown: Howie Beigelman, executive director of the nonprofit Ohio Jewish Communities, said the Democratic Senate primary “is shaping up to be a fight between two progressive candidates,” only one of whom has established long-standing relationships with Jewish community members as an elected official. “Ohio voters already know Tim Ryan,” Beigelman told JI. “For the Jewish community he’s someone with a voting record on Israel, as well as on Jewish community security needs, and on our other domestic policy priorities such as seniors, education, workforce and healthcare.” Beigelman, whose organization represents Ohio’s eight Jewish federations, had no direct comment on Harper.
Austin, Milley offer assurances on evacuation of Americans and Afghan partners
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, addressed the American public yesterday for the first time since Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban, affirming in a press briefing the Biden administration’s commitment to evacuating U.S. civilians and Afghan partners amid widespread concerns, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Changing course: After National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan repeatedly declined on Tuesday to commit to evacuating all U.S. civilians from Afghanistan — estimated by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki to be 11,000 — Milley offered a starkly different picture, saying “we fully intend to evacuate all American citizens who want to get out of Afghanistan” in addition to “as many [Afghan partners] as possible.” Austin echoed Milley’s assurances, emphasizing that the evacuation mission — the second largest in U.S. military history — will continue “as long as we can until the clock runs out or we run out of capability.”
Red flag: Sullivan’s comments had prompted widespread concern from lawmakers on Tuesday. “Our top priority needs to be getting Americans, and the Afghans who helped us, out of the country,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said in a statement to Jewish Insider shortly after the briefing. “There was clearly no good plan for their evacuation – so the Biden administration better make one, now.”
Hands tied: Austin noted that the U.S. is relying on the Taliban to guarantee the safety and free passage of Americans attempting to leave the country through Kabul’s airport because U.S. forces do not have the capability to conduct large-scale retrieval operations outside the airport.
Objection: Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), the vice chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a former assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration, expressed concern about this strategy in a statement to JI prior to the briefing. “The Taliban told us they would allow safe passage of Americans to the airport. But there is no way for the U.S. government to guarantee that the Taliban will keep that pledge,” he said. “All we can do — and I hope we are doing it — is to make clear to the Taliban that they will face grave consequences if they break that pledge.”
Survey: Americans view Taliban takeover of Afghanistan as a threat to Israel
More than two-thirds of Americans see the Taliban’s advances in Afghanistan as a threat to Israel, according to a survey from an Israel on Campus Coalition/HarrisX Overnight Poll obtained by Jewish Insider.
On Israel: The poll of 974 registered voters found that 72% of respondents — including a majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents — consider the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan to be a threat to the Jewish state. A plurality of Democrats (46%) and Independents (49%), and a majority of Republicans, said that Hamas’s recognition of the Taliban was a cause for concern, and that Israel should be more aggressive in confronting the current situation in the Gaza Strip. Sixteen percent of Democrats did not see Hamas’s recognition of the group as concerning.
Blame game: Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents said that the U.S. should refuse to engage with the Taliban following the group’s takeover of Afghanistan, which the fundamentalist group controlled from 1996-2001. Forty-five percent assigned blame for the current situation in Afghanistan to that country’s leaders, while 32% believe President Joe Biden bears responsibility and 17% blame former President Donald Trump.
Refugee issue: Forty-six percent of respondents said that any Afghans who supported U.S. troops in the country should be given refugee visas, while a quarter think no one should be issued the visa. The survey also found that a plurality of respondents (39%) believe the U.S. should give less than 50,000 visas to individuals attempting to leave the country, while 20% believe the U.S. should issue between 50,000-100,000 visas.
Read more here.
💸 Solo Digits: In the world of venture capital, Oren Zeev is an anomaly — a one-man shop that invests hundreds of millions of dollars every year, reports Forbes’ Itay Zehorai. “Zeev’s fund has no investment teams, no managers or partners, no consultants or analysts. There has never been a partners’ meeting at the fund’s offices, no investment committee, nor a single memorandum. The fund doesn’t even have an official office. Zeev makes investment decisions alone, usually from the neighborhood coffee shop, which he uses as his office instead. The way he sees it, all of those extras are a waste of the most valuable resource of all in the venture capital industry – time.” [Forbes]
😊 Mr. Bright Side: In The Atlantic, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman explores the concept of “tragic optimism,” a phrase coined by psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, author of the influential Holocaust memoir Man’s Search for Meaning, and how it applies to the current pandemic. “Tragic optimism involves the search for meaning amid the inevitable tragedies of human existence, something far more practical and realistic during these trying times. Researchers who study ‘post-traumatic growth’ have found that people can grow in many ways from difficult times — including having a greater appreciation of one’s life and relationships, as well as increased compassion, altruism, purpose, utilization of personal strengths, spiritual development, and creativity.” [TheAtlantic]
⚽ Field Notes: The New York Times’s Adam Rasgon visits the Palestinian village of Wadi al-Nis in the West Bank, where daily life has been hobbled by COVID-19. The village’s soccer team, which is normally highly ranked, has suffered from the loss of sponsorships resulting from the pandemic. “The coronavirus has been devastating for our town,” said Abdullah Abu Hamad, a member of the local council and the president of the soccer team. “It has shaken up all of our lives, from the builders to the farmers to the players.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🍦 Big Freeze: Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo urging her to investigate whether Ben & Jerry’s or its parent company, Unilever, violated the Export Administration Act by pulling its products from West Bank stores.
⚖️ Time for Trial: In the U.K., a man faces charges for allegedly setting up a website, “Radio Aryan,” which had the goal of propagating racist and antisemitic podcasts.
📱 Arrested: Former New York Observer editor Ken Kurson was arrested on state charges of felony computer trespassing and eavesdropping after he allegedly used spyware to gain access to his former wife’s social media and email accounts.
⚾ Meet the Mets: New York Mets owner Steve Cohen expressed his frustration with the team’s second half collapse after falling below .500, asking, in a tweet, how professional hitters could “be so unproductive” at the plate.
🗣️ Cleanup, Aisle 5: The New York Post highlighted a reported spat over politics between comedian Larry David and attorney Alan Dershowitz at a Martha’s Vineyard grocery store.
🪧 Working Together: The FBI’s Newark office, joined by the Orthodox Union, Anti-Defamation League and other community leaders, announced a public awareness campaign aimed at increasing hate crimes reporting.
🚀 Shots Fired: Syrian state media accused Israel of firing a missile at a military site inside the country on Tuesday.
🖨️ 3D Saviors: Researchers at Tel Aviv University used a 3D printer to reproduce a brain tumor in an effort to treat glioblastoma, a form of cancer.
🐚 Under the Sea: The unprecedented discovery of a vast and thriving deep-sea ecosystem off the coast of Tel Aviv is impacting how scientists study and understand the effects of climate change.
🦠 COVID Crisis: Once a model for how to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel faces a fourth wave of the virus as stronger strains emerge and the efficacy of the vaccines begins to wane among those who were the first to be inoculated.
🎉 Mazel Tov: Actress Scarlett Johansson and comedian Colin Jost welcomed their first child together.
Pic of the Day
Attendees gathered for the opening of the European Center for Jewish Scholarship at the University of Potsdam yesterday. The ECJS houses the first synagogue opened in the German city since the Holocaust.
Retired as president of Ono Academic College in Israel, she was previously the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev turns 80…
Venture capitalist and early investor in companies including Intel and Apple, Arthur Rock turns 95… Ventura County, Calif., resident, Jerry Epstein turns 92… Past member of both houses of the South Dakota legislature, Stanford “Stan” M. Adelstein turns 90… 42nd president of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton turns 75… Retired reading teacher for the New York City Department of Education, Miriam Baum Benkoe turns 71… Actor and director, Adam Arkin turns 65… Gavriel Benavraham turns 65… Senior partner at Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, Mark C. Rifkin turns 61… Co-founder and CEO of Apollo Global Management, Marc J. Rowan turns 59… Former chairman of the FCC and now a managing director at the Carlyle Group, Julius Genachowski turns 59… Managing editor of The New York Times, Joseph Kahn turns 57… Partner and talent agent in the motion picture department at William Morris Endeavor, Dan Aloni turns 57… Former member of Knesset and the son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Omri Sharon turns 57…
Executive administrator of Ventura, Calif., accounting firm Morgan, Daggett & Wotman, Carolynn Wotman turns 57… Actress and producer, best known for her starring role as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson on the TNT crime drama “The Closer,” Kyra Sedgwick turns 56… District Attorney of Queens, Melinda R. Katz turns 56… CEO of The Friedlander Group, Ezra Friedlander turns 53… Founding partner of Searchlight Capital Partners, Eric Louis Zinterhofer turns 50… Author and contributing editor for The Daily Beast, Molly Jong-Fast turns 43… Businessman and investor, Brett Icahn turns 42… Co-manager and CFO of Peak Street Management, Ross Hinkle turns 42… Associate director at the Anti-Defamation League, Sasha Bloch turns 33… Rapper, singer and songwriter, known by his stage name Hoodie Allen, Steven Adam Markowitz turns 33… Private equity investor and chair-elect of The Associated Jewish Federation of Baltimore, Yehuda L. Neuberger… Digital marketing and PR consultant in Tel Aviv, Cassandra Federbusz…