👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett traveled to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on Monday for a rare public meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. It was the first time in more than a decade that an Israeli leader openly visited Egypt — the last was in 2011, when then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Bennett described the meeting as “important and productive” in a Twitter post. A readout from his office said the two discussed ways of deepening and strengthening bilateral cooperation, with emphasis on increasing trade, as well as regional and international issues.
Ongoing tensions with Hamas in Gaza were discussed in the meeting, including ways to disarm Hamas, and securing the return of two Israeli civilians being held captive in Gaza as well as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war. The two leaders also discussed Iran’s growing aggression in the region, Israeli media reported.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is scheduled to meet today with King Abdullah II of Jordan. The king is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, which kicks off today and runs through the end of the month.
An anti-Israel resolution scheduled for a vote in the Burlington City Council on Monday evening was pulled by its sponsor after hours of heated public comment by Vermont residents. The resolution to withdraw the resolution for further consideration was introduced by its sponsor, Burlington City Council Member Ali Dieng, and passed by a 6-5 vote.
Yoram Samets, a Jewish community leader in Burlington, celebrated the vote, telling JI, “Ten days ago we were fighting against seven locked-in votes to pass the resolution and wondering if the mayor would veto, and would we have the votes to override a veto. There was no ‘passing of the resolution’ even discussed tonight… But for the moment we can celebrate, and we can go into Yom Kippur without this cloud hanging over our heads.”
Burlington City Councilmember Karen Paul noted in her remarks that the council received 2,000 emails in the lead-up to Monday night’s meeting. Of those, she said, just 10 were supportive of the resolution.
During a hearing about the U.S.’s Afghanistan pullout, Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA) questioned Secretary of State Tony Blinken on the reliability of U.S. intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program, in the wake of intelligence failures in Afghanistan.
Vargas said, “I believe we could have that same failure of intelligence with Iran and its nuclear program… We’re going to wake up one of these mornings and find out that our intelligence is very wrong there. I think we have a very difficult time understanding these religious fanatics.”
Blinken responded that intelligence collection is “a collective responsibility” across government agencies. He added that “there’s lots that goes into that” on Iran, but that the 2015 nuclear agreement “had on-the-ground, eyes-on intelligence, inspections, monitoring unlike anything we’ve ever had, and that’s different than assessing someone’s intent.”
It’s recall day in California. Residents of the Golden State head to the polls today to determine whether Gov. Gavin Newsom will keep his seat, or be replaced by any one of the Republicans vying to replace him. The latest polling has Newsom looking safe. Polls close at 8 p.m. PDT.
Several Jewish groups urge high court to reverse Maine parochial school decision
Several Jewish groups are urging the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision upholding a Maine law limiting religious schools’ ability to receive public funding, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Background: The case, Carson v. Makin, involves a Maine law providing tuition assistance for children in private schools — excluding “sectarian” schools — for residents of areas without a public school district. Three Jewish groups filed separate amicus briefs on Friday urging the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court decision: the Orthodox Union; National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA), joined by Agudath Israel of America and other groups; and the Jewish Coalition of Religious Liberty (JCRL).
Next in line: “This is a very important case, the latest in a series of cases that we’ve been involved in over the years to really advance the view in the Court that religious liberty stands for the proposition that the government cannot discriminate against religious organizations or religious people in government programs,” Nathan Diament, executive director of the OU Advocacy Center, told Jewish Insider. “We’ve had success in the Court with this argument in recent years.” Other recent cases on related issues include Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenueand Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer. In both cases, the Court struck down state laws that were found to discriminate against religious schools.
First Amendment: Nathan Lewin, a constitutional lawyer who helped write the COLPA brief, called the Maine law a “flagrant violation of the Free Exercise Clause.” He added, “It provides a disincentive for anybody following their religion… Instead of just simply saying, ‘We’re going to pay for your secular education while you pay for your religious education,’ [they said,] ‘We’re going to disqualify you from your secular education — which you have to have — because you do it in a religious way.’”
Going further: The COLPA brief goes further than the OU and JCRL briefs, calling for the high court to not only overturn the Maine law but also overturn the 1971 decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman, in which the Court established a three-pronged test to determine whether laws concerning religion are discriminatory. Some religious liberty advocates argue the “Lemon test” allows for discrimination. It would seem to be logical to formally bury Lemon v. Kurtzman, which would put an end to… cases like this one where the lower courts aren’t clear what they’re supposed to do,” Mordechai Biser, general counsel for Agudath Israel, told JI.
Bonus: On Monday, Agudath Israel filed a brief calling for the Supreme Court to hear the case of Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission v. Matthew Woods. In that case, attorney Matthew Woods is suing the Union Gospel Mission for discrimination because it refused to hire him for its legal aid clinic, citing its religious beliefs, after he disclosed he was in a same-sex relationship. The Washington State Supreme Court ruled previously in Woods’s favor.
U.N. ambassadors hail ‘new region’ in marking Abraham Accords’ anniversary
United Nations ambassadors from the U.S., Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain gathered at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan in New York City on Monday for an event commemorating the first anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords, reports Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss. The event is one of several this week marking the signing of the normalization agreements by Israel, Bahrain and the UAE in September 2020, and the largest in New York. In the months following the Accords’ signing last fall, Morocco and Sudan also reached normalization agreements with Israel.
‘A fundamentally new region’: Addressing the roughly 70 attendees, mostly U.N. ambassadors and Jewish communal leaders, Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan called the agreement “the best representation of practicing tolerance and living in peace with our neighbors.” Erdan, who hosted and organized the event, added that “both Jews and Arabs will grow up in a fundamentally new region, an atmosphere in which peace and friendship between Israel and its neighbors will feel inevitable, in which tolerance and coexistence are not just ideas, but the reality they experience every day.”
Making progress: U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she was hopeful that relationships formed through the Abraham Accords would be reflected in Turtle Bay. “I’m also determined to explore how we can translate these agreements into progress within the U.N. system,” she said. “Events like this point us in that right direction.” Speakers highlighted the speed with which the agreements spurred economic and cultural advancements. Citing the opening of Israeli embassies in Bahrain and the UAE, and the appointment of ambassadors from those countries to Israel, Thomas-Greenfield noted that “what is most remarkable is that in the past year, we’ve gone from ink on the page to concrete improvements between countries.”
Peace process: “Our region is tired of war,” Moroccan Ambassador to the U.N. Omar Hilale said, garnering the loudest applause of the afternoon. “Our region suffered a lot from all kinds of extremism, terrorism and rejection of ‘the other.’ Our region is in need of real peace… We need peace in hearts. We need peace in minds.”
Bonus: UAE Economy Minister Abdulla Bin Touq said on Monday that the UAE is hoping to grow business ties with Israel to more than $1 trillion over the next decade.
From politicians to people, how the Abraham Accords set in motion grassroots peacebuilding
For Asher Fredman, the historic signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) one year ago enabled him to put to the test a long-held belief of his: that peace would rise from the ground up, from bringing people together. Having worked as chief of staff and international affairs advisor to then-Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan from 2017-2019, Fredman, 37, told Jewish Insider’s Tamara Zieve how they often discussed the importance of people-to-people peace when meeting with heads of state around the world.
Aha moment: Until August 2020, when the Abraham Accords were announced, Fredman never had a conversation with anyone from the Gulf. That was when Fredman, an American-Israeli, thought: “We have an incredible opportunity here to realize this idea we’ve been talking about, this vision that we’ve been discussing for years.”
People-to-people peace: It all began with a Zoom meeting held on the heels of the August announcement. “The response was overwhelming from both sides,” Fredman recalled in an interview with JI. A simple tweet was enough to get the word out and people started reaching out to him and telling their friends about it. The next step was the formation of a Whatsapp group, which has been active ever since. Additional meetings and forums grew out of the initial call, and from there, Fredman founded the Israeli-Emirati Forum, which gives individuals the opportunity to ask questions about each other’s society and culture, women’s rights, religion, economy and day-to-day life.
Green bridges: In January this year, Fredman founded Gulf-Israel Green Ventures. The venture connects between Israeli and Gulf green technologies, entrepreneurs, businesses and investors, aiming to build business relationships that can lead to a more sustainable future. “We face similar challenges in these areas with our environments and water scarcity. Our governments — the Israeli government, Bahraini government and Emirati government — have set ambitious goals for improving renewable energy, for decreasing their emissions, and it’s an issue that’s becoming increasingly important on the global agenda. So it’s important for us to be working together, combining our capabilities, our innovation and our strengths in order to produce solutions in this area,” Fredman said.
Business partners: The UAE-Israel Business Council was established in June 2020 — even before the Abraham Accords were announced. Following the announcement, the platform, which conducts online events, really took off, and Fredman says it has been helpful for helping the two sides get to know one another.“There is still a lot that needs to be learned on both sides in terms of business culture, business regulations, business opportunities,” he said.
A true and lasting peace? The Abraham Accords has been criticized by Palestinians and their supporters who argue that Arab countries should refrain from normalizing relations with Israel until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is solved. They see the parties to the Accords as betraying the Palestinian cause. But Fredman believes more and more Arab countries will develop their relations with Israel in the coming years. “I think that the model of mutually beneficial cooperation… without making that progress dependent on the Palestinians is the key to peace.”
🏃 On the Run: The New Yorker’s Ben Taub tracks the movements of a Khaled al-Halabi, a Syrian Army officer and double agent who was recruited by Israeli intelligence officials before disappearing in 2017. “In the past two years, I have discussed Halabi’s case with spies, politicians, activists, defectors, victims, lawyers, and criminal investigators in six countries, and have reviewed thousands of pages of classified and confidential documents in Arabic, French, English, and German. The process has been beset with false leads, misinformation, recycled rumors, and unanswerable questions — a central one of which is the exact timing and nature of Halabi’s recruitment by Israeli intelligence. Nobody had a clear explanation, or could say what he contributed to Israeli interests.” [NewYorker]
✍️ Profile and Subject: The New York Times’s Ben Smith explores the career of writer Michael Wolff, who has spent the bulk of his decades in the media industry profiling controversial men in positions of power. “Mr. Wolff, 68, has been at this since before I had a byline, infuriating his rivals by the access he gets, the stories he tells and the gleeful way he tells them. And he has been the subject of pieces like this one — scolding profiles of the journalist enfant terrible and New York media scenester — for decades. He has managed to stay at the top of his game because of his undying interest and expertise in a particular subject: big, bad men. What Oprah Winfrey is to tearful celebrities and earnest royals, Mr. Wolff is to louche power players.” [NYTimes]
🙏 Faith Fight: In The New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten looks at the media coverage surrounding the appointment of an avowed atheist to head Harvard University’s group of chaplains, many of whom took issue with the way in which the position was presented. “The chaplain who preceded Epstein as president, Rabbi Jonah Steinberg, the executive director of Harvard Hillel, sent Epstein a letter and cc’d the other Harvard chaplains. He described his missive as a public rebuke, which he justified with references to Leviticus, Maimonides, and the Talmud, but it also served as a supple denunciation of self-aggrandizement—a plea for humility in a look-at-me age and in a don’t-look-at-me line of work.” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
🚨 Locked Up: U.S. Capitol Police arrested a man in possession of multiple knives outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Swastikas and other white supremacist symbols were found on his truck.
📱 Tech Trouble: Apple issued an emergency software security update after researchers at Citizen Lab identified a flaw that allowed the Pegasus spyware created by Israeli firm NSO Group to infect any Apple tablet, computer or watch.
🍎 Welcome: New York City mayoral candidate Eric Adams declared the city will “no longer be anti-business” under his tenure.
📗 New Literary Find: A new collection of writings by the Polish poet Tadeusz Borowski includes the fullest English translation of the former Auschwitz inmate, who wrote widely on his experiences in the camp.
📱 Special Treatment: A report by the Wall Street Journal found that Facebook gave special privileges to millions of high-profile users through a special “XCheck” program.
🦹 Crypto Knight: Hedge fund manager and Mets owner Steven A. Cohen is investing in a new crypto trading firm called Radkl that is set to launch today.
🕍 Tzedakah at Temple: John Streicker donated $10 million to Manhattan’s Temple Emanu-El, bringing the lawyer and real estate investor’s total contributions to the Reform synagogue to $25 million, following a gift in 2016.
⚠️ Interfaith Connections: After meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Pope Francis warned about “the threat of antisemitism still lurking in Europe and elsewhere.”
🏠 Bad Rhyme: Friends of the late Russian poet Joseph Brodsky opened a museum in the Nobel laureate’s former apartment in St. Petersburg — as government efforts to acquire the entire communal-living building to create its own museum were stymied by a neighbor who refused to move.
🚓 Attack Alert: A Palestinian stabbed and wounded two people in a Jerusalem shop yesterday, before being shot by responding Israeli police.
🛩️ Plane Crash: Haim Garon, a prosecution witness in the corruption trial against former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was one of two people killed in a private aircraft crash off Greece on Monday.
🤖 Modern Machines: Israel Aerospace Industries released an unmanned robot capable of patrolling borders and opening fire, technology that could transform modern defense and warfare.
💵 Money Matters: Israel’s budget deficit shrank 1.2 percentage points in August, reaching a new low since the start of the pandemic.
🛫 To the Sky: EgyptAir will begin operating four flights a week to Israel, beginning after Sukkot.
💰 Big Buy: Israeli software provider Kape Technologies announced the acquisition of ExpressVPN for $936 million.
☢️ Another Go: Days after agreeing to give the U.N.’s nuclear monitoring agency increased access to its sites, Iran signaled it is willing to return to stalled nuclear talks in Vienna. According to an analysis of International Atomic Energy Agency data, Iran could be just one month away from producing enough weapon-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon.
🕯️ Remembering: Sheila Bromberg, a renowned harpist who appeared on the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” died at 92. George Wein, who almost single-handedly turned the jazz festival into a worldwide phenomenon, died at 95.
Pic of the Day
Photos and videos of comedian Larry David at a fashion week show in New York went viral after David appeared to be plugging his ears from the loud music.
Mayor of Miami-Dade County, Daniella Levine Cava turns 66…
Actor, writer and director with a 50-year career in film and TV, Walter Koenig turns 85… Basketball coach enshrined in the Hall of Fame, Larry Brown turns 81… CEO of MDC Holdings and Chairman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and longtime AIPAC board member, Larry A. Mizel turns 79… Partner at San Diego-based CaseyGerry, a specialist in mass torts, Frederick A. Schenk turns 68… Plastic surgeon and television personality, Dr. Terry Dubrow turns 63… NYC-based chairman and chief investment officer of The Electrum Group, he is the world’s largest private collector of Rembrandt paintings, Thomas Scott Kaplan turns 59… Strategic advisor at Wye Communications, Amy Kauffman… Founder of Vermont-based Kidrobot, a retailer of art toys, apparel and accessories, and Ello, an ad-free social network, Paul Budnitz turns 54… British secretary of state for transport, he was a national president of BBYO, Grant Shapps turns 53… President of Strauss Media Strategies, during the Clinton administration he became the first-ever White House Radio Director, Richard Strauss turns 52…
Managing director at Gasthalter, Mark A. Semer turns 51… Comedian, actor, writer and producer, Elon Gold turns 51… Managing partner of Berke Farah LLP, Elliot S. Berke turns 50… Senior national political reporter for Bloomberg, Jennifer Jacobs turns 50… Public relations professional, Courtney Cohen Flantzer turns 43… Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis turns 43… Israeli-American actress, Hani Furstenberg turns 42… Artist, photographer and educator, Marisa Scheinfeld turns 41… Staff writer at The Atlantic, Russell Berman turns 38… Co-founder and co-executive director of the Indivisible movement, Leah Greenberg turns 35… Los Angeles based attorney at Sony Pictures Entertainment, Roxana Pourshalimi turns 34… New York Times reporter covering national politics, Matt Flegenheimer turns 33… Former vice president at Hillel International, co-founder of Cunucu Dog Rescue, Jeremy Moskowitz turns 32… Founder and owner of ARA Capital, Arkadiy Abramovich turns 28… Senior account supervisor at DKC, Julia Savel turns 27… Artistic gymnast, she represented Israel at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Lihie Raz turns 18…