👋 Good Thursday morning!
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid became the highest-ranking Israeli official to visit Bahrain on Thursday, flying directly from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport to Manama, where he will inaugurate Israel’s first embassy this afternoon and sign a series of bilateral agreements.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo on Wednesday. Sullivan, who was joined by White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk, discussed regional tensions with the Egyptian leader, including “Egypt’s role in promoting security and prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians following the visit by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to Egypt earlier this month,” a readout from Sullivan’s office noted ahead of the trip.
Sullivan also raised the issue of human rights with the Egyptian leader, discussing securing “tangible and lasting improvements,” a senior U.S. official toldReuters. A statement from Sisi’s office also said the meeting focused on reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip and Egypt’s role in maintaining the cease-fire reached between Israel and Hamas following the fighting last May, as well as other regional issues.
A National Security Council spokesperson announced that Sullivan will host his Israeli counterpart, National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata, in Washington on Oct. 5 “for follow-up discussions on these and other topics and a meeting of the U.S.-Israel Strategic Consultative Group.”
Vice President Kamala Harris faced criticism this week for not challenging claims that Israel is guilty of “ethnic genocide.” The claims were raised by a student on Tuesday at an event at George Mason University in Virginia, where Harris spoke to a class about voting rights. The student asked the vice president how the U.S. can justify funding the militaries in Saudi Arabia and Israel, pointing to last week’s House vote to provide $1 billion to Israel to replenish its missile-defense system.
The student, who identified herself as part-Yemeni, part-Iranian but not American, said: “But I see that over the summer there have been protests and demonstrations in astronomical numbers standing with Palestine. But then just a few days ago, there were funds allocated to continue backing Israel, which hurts my heart because it’s ethnic genocide and displacement of people, the same that happened in America, and I’m sure you’re aware of this.” In response, Harris told the student: “Your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard.” Watch the full exchange here.
sticking with the squad
How Ayanna Pressley shifted her position on Israel
After a bill calling for $1 billion in additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives last week by a vote of 420 to 9, members of the Boston Jewish community are grappling with the fact that Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) — who upon first entering Congress in 2019 was seen as a supporter of the Jewish state — was one of just nine members to vote against the measure. What changed? Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch talked to community leaders and activists in Boston to find out who has the congresswoman’s ear on Israel.
Anti-BDS outlier: In July 2019, Pressley was the only one of the four “Squad” members to vote to condemn the BDS movement, despite receiving criticism from some on the left. “What I heard resounding in [the] community was that voting yes on this resolution affirmed to my constituents raised in the Jewish faith Israel’s right to exist, a view I share as a supporter of a two state solution,” Pressley tweeted at the time.
Stoking outrage: In August 2019, weeks after her vote condemning BDS, Pressley was outraged when Omar and Tlaib were barred from entering Israel by then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Former President Donald Trump urged Netanyahu to shut down their visit, and Netanyahu obliged, arguing that Omar and Tlaib’s support for boycotting Israel meant they should not be allowed in the country. “When you attack one of us, you attack all of us. Netanyahu is stoking division and punishing dissent just like the occupant of the White House,” Pressley said in a statement at the time. “We should reevaluate our relationships with any country who seeks to ban Americans and threatens the safety of anyone, including government officials.”
Local influencers: It was after that July 2019 vote that Pressley met with local progressive Jewish activists critical of Israel. “We reached out, just expressing some disappointment [about the anti-BDS vote], and she actually responded [by] asking for a meeting,” said Kayla Neumeyer, a volunteer organizer with the Boston chapter of IfNotNow. This meeting appeared to be significant for Pressley. She spoke at a 2019 Hanukkah party the group hosted at a brewery in Jamaica Plain and called herself a “sister in solidarity” with IfNotNow activists. “Really every vote since that 2019 bill has been in support of Palestinian rights,” Neumeyer said.
Self respect: Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, has a yearslong relationship with Pressley, who served on the Boston City Council until her election to Congress. He has previously defended her pro-Israel bona fides in the face of attacks from the right. Burton called last week’s vote a “severe disappointment” but acknowledged that JCRC must work with Pressley on other local issues. Still, Burton cautioned that the Jewish community’s reserves of tolerance are not limitless: “We have to have some self-respect in how we approach public officials who don’t show us a lot of respect.”
Read the full story here.
Bonus: In a New York Times piece titled “For Progressives, Iron Dome Isn’t the Issue. It’s Israel Itself,” former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) suggests that while the House’s Iron Dome vote indicated broad Democratic support for Israel, the Biden administration “must take robust action to create a two-state reality on the ground, one that gives all wings of the Democratic Party a stake in stability and security for all within Israel, Gaza and the West Bank,” amid a drop in support for Israel by the far-left flank of the party.
holdup on the hill
Rand Paul blocks unanimous consent request on Iron Dome funding bill
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is complicating efforts by Democratic leaders in the Senate to pass the upper chamber’s version of the $1 billion Iron Dome funding legislation that passed the House of Representatives last week, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Background: According to a source familiar with the effort, on Wednesday morning Senate Democratic leadership formally launched the “hotline” for the bill, a precursor process to passing legislation by unanimous consent. Senators with objections to the legislation are asked to notify Senate cloakroom staff if they have objections.
Objection: Paul — a libertarian who is often skeptical of foreign aid and has attempted to limit security assistance to Israel in the past — is demanding an amendment to pay for the Iron Dome supplement, a congressional source told Jewish Insider. The source described the Paul amendment as a poison pill that would ultimately kill the bill in the Senate.
Different message: Speaking to JI on Wednesday, Paul disputed that he was blocking the funding. “We’re offering a funding bill,” Paul said. “We have a unanimous consent request to fund the Iron Dome.” A Paul spokesperson deflected a follow-up question about what his proposal entailed, and said the senator would have more details to offer later Wednesday but did not respond to an additional request for comment.
Timing question: If the unanimous consent request is blocked, a vote on the original bill will likely be delayed by at least several days as the legislation works its way through Senate procedure and floor debate, a source told Jewish Insider. Senate Democrats are also attempting to raise the debt ceiling over strong Republican objections, an issue that is likely to take priority for Senate floor time.
Onboard: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who said last week that he wanted to see the additional Iron Dome aid paired with additional aid for Palestinians, told JI he’s still in discussions with leadership about the issue but would not object to the House bill being passed by the Senate in its current form. “I certainly don’t intend to object,” he said. “My belief continues to be that we should make sure that we fully fund Iron Dome and that we provide substantial relief to Palestinians, in particular with the Gaza reconstruction.”
in a new york minute
On first New York trip as prime minister, Bennett addresses U.N., American Jewish community
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addressed both world leaders and American Jewish leaders during a trip to New York on Monday, marking a reset in relations with both communities following more than a decade of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s premiership, Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss reports.
Teamwork: Bennett highlighted the security relationship between Israel and the U.S. during an afternoon speech to Jewish leaders hosted by The Jewish Federations of North America. “We are nine million [the approximate population of Israel] boots on the ground. We are fighting. We are day in, day out in touch with those terrorists. We’re gaining intelligence, methodologies. We’re fending them, without ever asking America to send one troop. And we never will,” he said, noting that Israel’s security apparatus has helped allies locate terror threats in their own countries. “We’re not the problem. We’re the solution.”
Eye on Washington: Bennett also addressed the House of Representatives vote last Thursday to approve a $1 billion replenishment of the Iron Dome missile-defense system in a 420-9 vote, saying he was “very happy” with the outcome. “It’s not only about the fact that Iron Dome is defensive. It’s broader than that,” he said, recalling his own experience on Sept. 11, 2001, when he was running a high-tech company in Manhattan and evacuated his employees following that morning’s terror attack.
Time in Turtle Bay: Bennett’s U.N. speech largely focused on Iranian threats in the region, drawing attention to the Islamic republic’s deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that have targeted Saudi, U.S. and Israeli interests in the Middle East, including the recent attack on an oil tanker that killed two people. Earlier Monday, Bennett met with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. On Monday afternoon, he met with U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who accepted an invitation from Bennett to visit Israel. That evening, he spoke at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, a Modern Orthodox synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Spotted at the JFNA event: Eric Fingerhut, Mark Wilf, Sarah Eisenman, Adam Lehman, Betsy Berns Korn, Alisa Doctoroff, Susie Stern, Gidi Grinstein, Jay Sanderson, Ari Ackerman, Rabbi Daniel Kraus, Mark Charendoff, Michal Gerstler, Rivka Kidron, Stephen Greenberg, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Erika Rudin-Luria, David Heller, Naomi Adler, Eric Goldstein, Amy Bressman, Ben Pery, Cindy Greenberg, Malcolm Hoenlein, William Daroff, Paul Bernstein, David Friedman, Rabbis Arthur and Marc Schneier, David Moore, Rhoda Smolow, Brett Barth, Jeff Shapiro, Jeff Finkelstein, Steve Hoffman, Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt and Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt.
⛪ Church Chatter: In the Washington Post Magazine, Emily Kaplan examines how the changing demographics within the Church of Jesus Chist of Latter-Day Saints could impact the future of the Mormon church’s political leanings, which have traditionally skewed conservative. “Long identified with conservative theology and Republican politics, the church now finds itself at something of an inflection point. More so than in other conservative religious institutions, liberals — or at least those disaffected from conservatism — are making their presence known inside and on the perimeters of the church, provoking something of a Latter-day Saint identity crisis.” [WashPost]
🇮🇷 Dreams Deferred: The New York Times’s Vivian Yee explores the predicament of young Iranians. “After years of sanctions, mismanagement and the pandemic, it is easy to put numbers to Iran’s economic struggles. Since 2018, many prices have more than doubled, living standards have skidded and poverty has spread, especially among rural Iranians. All but the wealthiest have been brought low. But there is no statistic for middle-class Iranians’ uncertainty and increasingly pinched aspirations. Their darkening mood can best be measured in missed milestones — in the rush to leave the country after graduation, in delayed marriages and declining birthrates.” [NYTimes]
💉 Vaccination Nation: In The Wall Street Journal, Dov Lieber and Thomas Grove look at the reasons behind Israel’s quick vaccine rollouts and the information benefits therein. “Throughout the global effort against Covid-19, Israel’s public health experts have been consistently ahead of their counterparts elsewhere in the world. By securing an early supply deal with Pfizer for its vaccine, sweetened in part by a promise to share data from Israel’s extensive network of health maintenance organizations, they have had an edge in understanding how the vaccine behaves in the real world.” [WSJ]
Podcast: Why was Congress battling over a new $1 billion in Iron Dome funding last week? Get the inside scoop on the latest Israel Policy Pod: Listen here
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Around the Web
🚑 Deadly crash: Five people were killed in northern Israel on Wednesday, including a mother and her three children, in a crash between a bus and three vehicles.
🌇 City Hall Planning: As he prepares for his likely transition into the New York City mayoralty, Democratic nominee Eric Adams has sought the advice of former Mayor Mike Bloomberg on how to shape his administration.
📺 Live from NY: Chicago comic Sarah Sherman will join NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” as a featured player, while Chloe Fineman has been promoted to regular cast member, the show announced.
🥒 Vegetable Critic: In a tepid review of the new vegan-only format at Eleven Madison Park, one of New York City’s most celebrated restaurants (formerly owned by Danny Meyer), New York Times food critic Pete Wells noted the menu is welcomed by “diners who don’t eat animals for religious or moral reasons.”
☕ Food Staple: Los Angeles Times columnist Gustavo Arellano considers the perpetual rise and fall of the Jewish deli in an episode of his podcast, “The Times.”
🏆 For the Win: The Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame is rebuilding after sustaining heavy damage during Hurricane Ida and is asking the community for donations.
🗓️ Personal Days: The school committee in Lewiston, Maine, voted to remove Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur from the school calendar as approved holidays after adding them last year.
⛔ Access Denied: President Joe Biden reportedly rejected a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
💰 Debt Collectors: After nearly 35 years, the Tehran embassy hostages continue to press the White House to advocate for their promised payment of $4.4 million, $10,000 for each day spent in captivity.
🛬 Airstrike: Unidentified planes struck an Iranian-backed militia camp in eastern Syria earlier this week.
🤝 Signed Deal: The Czech Ministry of Defense agreed to a contract to buy Israel’s Spyder surface-to-air missile system for $627 million.
₿ Radical funds: The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin has raised at least $4.8 million worth of Bitcoin from a worldwide network of supporters, according to an Associated Press report about radical right-wing figures raising money globally through cryptocurrencies.
💉 Cycle Changes: Israel is conducting its first study into a possible connection between menstrual changes and COVID-19 vaccines, after anecdotes from women around the world reporting changes in their cycles following their jabs.
💁 Big Demands: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossain Amir Abdollahian has demanded increased sanctions relief beyond 2015 levels before the country agrees to return to a nuclear deal.
🥕 Carrot < Stick: In The Wall Street Journal,Foundation for Defense of Democracies CEO Mark Dubowitz warns that in order to achieve a new nuclear agreement with Iran, President Joe Biden must get more aggressive on implementing sanctions.
🎙️ Heard Yesterday: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Senior Fellow Aaron David Miller had a wide-ranging conversation with former Secretary of State James Baker about U.S. foreign policy and domestic politics.
🙅♂️ In Defiance: In an interview with CBS News, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he planned to defy U.S. pressure against purchasing another Russian missile-defense system, despite warnings the move risks NATO security.
🏜️ Escape: A remote, luxury hotel in the Arava Valley is revolutionizing travel to Israel’s deserts.
📽️ Accolades: TheIsraeli film “Advocate” won best documentary during Wednesday’s 42nd Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards.
💼 Transitions: St. Louis Jewish Light has appointed Betsy Schmidt, currently the publication’s chief business and engagement officer, as CEO. Karen Olick is returning to SKDK after resigning from her post as chief of staff to the Department of Homeland Security earlier this month.
🕯️ Remembering: Marilyn Golden, an advocate for disability rights and an important voice behind the Americans with Disabilities Act, died at 67.
Pic of the Day
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lays a wreath at the commemoration ceremony for the 80th anniversary of the Babyn Yar massacre that killed over 33,000 Jews in 1941.
Actress and activist, she was elected earlier this month as president of the SAG-AFTRA trade union, Fran Drescher turns 64…
Former prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert turns 76… IT developer and business analyst, Sanford Kadish turns 70… Chairman and CEO of AMC Entertainment and a co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, Adam Maximilian Aron turns 67… Co-founder and CEO of hedge fund Avenue Capital Group and co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, Marc Lasry turns 62… Professor of mathematical logic at MIT and then Hebrew U, now on the faculty at Oxford, Ehud Hrushovski turns 62… Journalist for Haaretz, Allison Kaplan Sommer… Professor of healthcare economics at MIT, Jonathan Gruber turns 56… Leora Lily Ihilevich Usman… Lisa K. Robbins… Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Menashe Erdan turns 51… SVP of digital product management at The Advertising Council, Anastasia Goodstein turns 50… Chief Brussels correspondent at Politico Europe, David Herszenhorn turns 49… CEO of Via Trading Corporation, Jacques Stambouli turns 48… President and CEO of Hadar Institute in Manhattan, Eliezer “Elie” Kaunfer turns 48… Founder of Artemis Strategies, a boutique consultancy, Hildy Kuryk… Host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Ari Shapiro turns 43… Screenwriter, director, producer and actor, Jonathan Peter Kasdan turns 42… Computer scientist and entrepreneur, a co-founder of Palantir Technologies, Stephen Cohen turns 39… Strategy editor at The Wall Street Journal, Steven Russolillo turns 36… Founder of Rachie Shnay Jewelry, Rachie Shnay…