👋 Good Monday morning!
It’s not the first Monday in May… or September. However, this evening is the annual Met Gala. The New York Times’s Vanessa Friedman has the details.
Diplomats and government officials in Washington and New York are preparing to mark the first anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords, the agreement that normalized relations between Israel and two Arab nations on Sept. 15, 2020.
In New York today, the permanent missions of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco will hold a joint celebration to mark the Accords’ signing. In addition to the ambassadors to the U.N. from those four countries, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield will speak.
In Washington tomorrow, the Israeli, Bahraini and Emirati ambassadors will speak at a panel discussion moderated by Robert Greenway, executive director of the Abraham Accords Peace Institute. Jared Kushner, who as former President Donald Trump’s senior advisor helped spearhead the Accords, will deliver introductory remarks, and two members of the Knesset — Ofir Akunis and Ruth Wasserman Lande, the co-chairs of the Parliamentary Caucus for Promoting the Abraham Accords — will also speak at the event.
Billionaire tycoon Najib Mikati was named Lebanon’s prime minister on Friday, presenting the best chance of a stable government in more than a year for a country ravaged by corruption, a pandemic, a deadly explosion at Beirut’s port and a free-fall economy. Mikati has served in the role twice before.
In Washington, Lebanon experts argued that the new cabinet does not, fundamentally, change the situation on the ground for Lebanon or the region and that Hezbollah remains the most influential actor in the country.
Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JI, “It doesn’t affect anything in terms of the balance of power in Lebanon. The predominant power on every level — military, security, political, financial, economic — is Hezbollah… The birth of this government at this moment came because Hezbollah deemed it so.”
Bill Kristol’s political evolution
A life-long conservative, William Kristol raised eyebrows inside the Beltway last month when the McLean, Va., resident endorsed Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. Best known for his support for interventionism and the Iraq War, Kristol, who is now editor-at-large of The Bulwark, decided that it would be disingenuous not to weigh in on the heated governor’s race in his home state. In conversation with Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch, Kristol discussed whether he still identifies as a Republican (no, not really), what he makes of the growing contingent of Democrats who are hostile to Israel (“it’s very foolish to just write off the Democrats”) and whether Iraq was really worth it (“I’m uncertain about Iraq”).
On another level: “[VA GOP nominee Glenn] Youngkin fundamentally is unwilling to break with Trump and Trumpism. Some people can say in response, well, that’s just rhetoric. And I think it’s a fair point. I think it’s easier to vote for a Republican for governor than for Congress, because if you’re going to be in Congress, you’re going to be supporting [House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy. If you’re in the Senate, you’re going to be voting in conjunction with various Trumpists. That’s a more immediate referendum on Trump.”
Self-identify: “[Transportation Secretary] Pete Buttigieg said during the [2020 presidential] campaign that he hoped he would appeal to, and that he hoped Biden would appeal to if Biden was the nominee, what he called ‘future former Republicans.’ I’ve used that term a few times to describe myself now. As a friend pointed out, there’s only so long you can be a future former Republican. At some point, you have to decide, Are you a former Republican, or are you still? I guess I’m more on the former side.”
Reassessing: “Look, obviously, if you supported [the Iraq War] you’d be crazy not to have thought, rethought and worried about whether you were right.”
Caution: “I say to people who are uncertain about the Democratic Party and Israel, all the more reason to fight to define the Democratic Party on Israel. It’s not going to be a happy story if we have a pro-Israel Republican Party and an anti-Israel Democratic Party.”
Ohio Senate: On what Kristol thinks of the campaign run by Ohio Senate candidate Josh Mandel, a Republican, who was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for comparing mask mandates to the Gestapo: “It’s horrible and it’s embarrassing.”
Burlington City Council to vote on BDS resolution
The city of Burlington, Vt., is expected to vote tonight on a resolution that endorses the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. If passed and approved by the city’s mayor, Burlington will become the first city in the country to enact BDS legislation. “We looked at this not from a Burlington perspective, but from the state of Vermont perspective,” Yoram Samets, a Jewish community activist, told Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss. Jewish activists in Burlington were concerned that the efforts could spread statewide, he explained, “and make it challenging for the Jewish community. So we took this on as a Vermont issue.”
Community effort: The Jewish Communities of Vermont (JCVT) is organizing against the vote, conducting outreach to the council’s 12 members and encouraging community members to convey their opposition to the non-binding legislation. Samets, who sits on JCVT’s antisemitism task group committee, told JI that community members have sent more than 1,300 emails to council members in recent weeks, lobbying against the legislation. The group is working in conjunction with local synagogues and the University of Vermont Hillel. The Jewish community in the state, Samets estimated, is between 8,000-10,000.
Long time coming: “From my perspective, this has been in the works for 20 years,” Samets, a 40-year resident of the state, told JI. “In Vermont, we have a Vermont peace and justice group, and this is rooted with them. And they’re strident anti-Israel activists for years and years. This is the first time they’ve actually been able to get the city council to take on such a resolution. But they’ve been behind this type of activity for a long time.” Rabbi Amy Small, whose Conservative congregation, Ohavi Zedek, is the oldest in the state, told JI that tensions “have been simmering for a very, very, very long time… It is sort of an explosion of all of that, all of those sparks that have been flying around up until now.”
Bad timing: “The hard part about this is it is happening during the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah [the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur], when it’s kind of a busy time for rabbis,” Small added. She suggested that the legislation’s backers were “ignorant about what this time is for the Jewish community.” Samets thought the timing was more intentional. “We’re talking here about pretty sophisticated people in their actions and their thinking, so they knew where we were,” he said. “So, they chose it specifically.” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told JI, “Proponents of BDS resolutions are increasingly scheduling votes around holidays, or adopting a ‘surprise’ approach, where they plan in secret in advance and the community only learns of their plans when the agenda becomes public. Both tactics give the Jewish community and supporters of Israel limited time to organize.”
Senate Democrats offer optimistic outlook on Middle East following trip to region
Three Senate Democrats, who recently returned from the Middle East, expressed optimism about a range of challenges in the region — including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, contentious issues in the U.S.-Israel relationship, controversial Palestinian Authority policies and the political crisis in Lebanon — in a briefing with reporters on Friday, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) traveled to Israel, the West Bank and Lebanon last week for a series of meetings with top officials.
Consulate Clash: The senators offered few details on their discussions about one well-publicized area of disagreement between the delegation and the Israeli government: the fate of the shuttered U.S. consulate in Jerusalem that traditionally served Palestinians. President Joe Biden has announced his goal of reopening the consulate, a move opposed by the Israeli government. “I think the consulate issue is as much one of timing as anything else,” Blumenthal said. “I know that President Biden has raised this issue with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and I think it will be worked out.”
Palestinian Relations: There was a sense of optimism on Israeli-Palestinian issues in the senators’ remarks, despite the chasm between the Democrats and the Bennett government on the subject. “They’ve made significant steps just in the last few months, that are promising, whether it be opening up a high-level dialogue with the Palestinian Authority or beginning to open up pathways for humanitarian relief into Gaza,” Murphy said. “We’ve met with Israeli leadership that seems very pragmatic and very willing to try to work with both parties in Congress to address a pathway towards, at the very least, a meaningful dialogue with the Palestinians.”
Martyr payments: The senators also offered a largely positive readout on their conversation with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. In a statement to Jewish Insider following the press briefing, Murphy expressed hope that the Palestinian Authority might end its “pay for slay” program, in which the Palestinian government provides compensation to the families of terrorists. “I had a candid conversation with the prime minister about the need to change this law and the role that the United States can play in helping to make that happen,” Murphy said. “The fact that there’s now a dialogue between the Palestinians and the Israelis makes it more likely that the Palestinians can make the necessary reforms to their prisoner payment policy.”
Across the border: The senators, speaking on the same day Lebanon’s new cabinet was announced, expressed hope for reforms and progress under new Prime Minister Najib Mikati. “[Mikati] certainly talked the right talk,” Blumenthal added, referring to the delegation’s meeting with him. “And how he’s really got to walk that walk. And whether he can successfully fight corruption in a corruption-ridden country remains to be seen. But I am very hopeful… He clearly cares about his country.”
💉 Shot of Faith: The New York Times’s Ruth Graham speaks to individuals opposed to COVID-19 vaccination mandates who are citing their religious beliefs in an attempt to exempt themselves from receiving an inoculation necessary for continued employment. “Exemption requests are testing the boundaries of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who object to work requirements based on religious beliefs that are ‘sincerely held’… They cannot, however, be based only on social or political beliefs. That means employers must try to distinguish between primarily political objections from people who may happen to be religious, and objections that are actually religious at their core.” [NYTimes]
🗳️ Recall Review: The Atlantic’s Annie Lowry explores the unlikely candidacy of California gubernatorial hopeful Larry Elder, who currently leads the Republican pack ahead of Tuesday’s recall election to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom. “Elder would likely never have been competitive in a normal election cycle. Newsom won in a landslide in 2018, after all, and Republican John Cox garnered just one-third of the state’s votes. More broadly, the GOP is struggling to gain any kind of toehold in California; not a single Republican currently holds statewide office. Nor is it likely that the recall would have happened in the first place if activists had tried it a year before or a year after they did.” [TheAtlantic]
🚒 Who By Fire: The Los Angeles Times’s Robin Estrin spotlights the Jewish community in Lake Tahoe, many of whose members fled the raging Caldor fire in the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah. “The rabbi still wears white, a symbol of purity and new beginnings, but instead of reading the Torah from the bimah, the synagogue’s stage, he stands in an Airbnb in Santa Rosa, Calif., — his wife and children in the other room. The actual synagogue, the center of Jewish life, is empty, and the winding mountain roads that lead to its doors are closed, patrolled by police and fire officials and sometimes the National Guard. The Torah scrolls are not in their usual home, called an ark, nor are they with the rabbi in Santa Rosa. They have been evacuated from the temple and are resting in the empty upstairs bedroom of a congregant in Nevada, covered by a traditional white and blue tallit, or prayer shawl.” [LATimes]
🙏 Forgiveness: Writing in The New York Times, Rabbi David Wolpe looks at how Judaism urges forgiveness in an era of cancel culture. “There will always be things we cannot fully forgive and people who do not deserve to be restored to good reputation. And forgiving someone does not necessarily mean readmitting that person to your life. In most cases, however, Jewish teachings insist that fair judgment does not require damnation… And what if you are the one who has been hurt? Jewish tradition urges us to consider why it is so hard to forgive. There is a savage self-righteousness to public shaming. If I forgive you, truly forgive you, then I must restore moral parity; I am no better than you.” [NYTimes]
🏗️ Reflections: In a 9/11 memorial piece,Politico pulls together the unfiltered perspectives of 17 of the most consequential architects of the post-9/11 world. “Exactly 20 years after the worst terrorist assault in American history slaughtered nearly 3,000 people, the architects of the U.S. response — the men and women inside the White House Situation Room and at the highest levels of the Pentagon, foreign service, spy agencies and Congress — can look back with relief that another large-scale attack on American soil never took place. But that fact has often been used as a blanket justification for many of the most far-reaching, controversial and even harmful decisions made in the aftermath of the attacks — the vast expansion of the surveillance state; covert operations to kill or capture suspected terrorists, and in some cases torture them; and the invasion first of Afghanistan, where the attacks were planned, and then Iraq, where they were not.” [Politico]
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Around the Web
🔎 On the Case: Police in St. Paul, Minn., are investigating the desecration of dozens of gravestones in a Jewish cemetery.
🧒 Custody Chaos: A young boy, who was the sole survivor of an Italian cable car crash earlier this year that killed his parents and younger sibling, was taken by relatives to Israel amid a custody battle between his Italian and Israeli family members.
🚓 Apprehended: Four of the six Palestinians who escaped from an Israeli jail last week were taken into custody by Israeli police over the weekend.
🛸 Security Concern: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz alleged that Iran is training foreign militias to conduct attacks using unmanned aerial vehicles.
🇪🇬🇮🇱 Sinai Meeting: Israeli Prime Naftali Bennett is set to meet today with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, for the first public meeting between leaders of the two countries in ten years.
💸 Gaza Aid: The United Nations will begin distributing cash aid to thousands of poor families in Hamas-run Gaza under a program funded by Qatar, the U.N. Middle East envoy said on Monday.
🦠 Vaccination Nation: The director of Israel’s health ministry said the country is preparing for the possibility of having to administer a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to Israelis.
🧑⚖️ In the Courts: Israel plans to prosecute dozens of individuals returning from a Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to Uman, Ukraine, who provided falsified negative COVID-19 tests.
📰 Case 4000: The trial of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resumes today after a three-month break. The defense team of the now-opposition leader is set to battle charges that Netanyahu received positive coverage from a news site in exchange for business favors.
🏗️ Miracle collapse: An apartment building in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon collapsed Sunday, one day after residents were evacuated over fears of imminent collapse.
⚠️ Warning Sign: A new Israeli film depicting the civil war that precipitated the fall of the Second Temple has become a must-watch among a diverse array of political leaders, who see the film as an ominous warning for the country’s fractured society.
💰 Charity Chest: Billionaire philanthropist George Soros is restructuring his Open Society Foundation, provoking fury over the termination of many grants, as he focuses funding in places like Africa and Latin America.
📚 Book Shelf: Nevergreen, a new book by Andrew Pessin, explores the concept of cancel culture on American college campuses.
🐄 Teamwork: Emirates Food Industries will partner with Israel’s Tnuva to expand the UAE’s range of dairy offerings.
👁️ Monitoring Mess: Iran agreed to allow the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog to service monitoring devices at its nuclear facilities.
🕯️ Remembering: Gilbert Seltzer, who served in the U.S.’s “Ghost Army,” deceiving German soldiers on the WWII battlefield, died at 106.
Pic of the Day
The gravestone of the late former Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was unveiled days before the first anniversary of her death.
Executive director of Aspen Digital, part of the Aspen Institute, Vivian Schiller turns 60…
Retired motion picture editor, Avrum Meyer Fine turns 86… Columnist, author and etiquette authority known as Miss Manners, Judith Perlman Martin turns 83… Chairman of global brokerage at CBRE, Stephen Siegel turns 77… Senior advisor to the Endowment for Middle East Truth, Richard Pollock turns 70… CEO of The Mellman Group and CEO of the Democratic Majority for Israel, Mark S. Mellman turns 66… Ice dancer who won five straight U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Judy Blumberg turns 64… Senior lecturer at Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Rabbi Chaim Kosman turns 60… Comedian who earned the title “Roastmaster General” for his Comedy Central celebrity roasts, Jeff Ross (born Jeffrey Ross Lifschultz) turns 56… Attorney general of North Carolina, Joshua Stein turns 55… Member of the Los Angeles City Council, Robert J. Blumenfield turns 54… Founder of United Hatzalah of Israel and president of its U.S.-based support organization, Friends of United Hatzalah, Eli Beer turns 48… Member of the Knesset for the Shas party, Uriel Menachem Buso turns 48… Senior associate regional director at the Anti-Defamation League, Meredith Mirman Weisel turns 46… Former member of the Colorado House of Representatives, Jonathan Singer turns 42… Advocacy strategist, Gary Ritterstein turns 38… Deputy director of communications and digital strategy at the Student Borrower Protection Center, Walter Suskind turns 33… Software engineer at AtomicKafka, David Behmoaras turns 30… Political education assistant at AIPAC, Noa Silverstein turns 25… Founder and president of Reshet Capital, Betty Grinstein…