👋 Good Thursday morning!
High-level officials from Israel and the six Arab countries with which it has normalized relations met in the United Arab Emirates for the first-ever multilateral meeting between senior representatives of the seven countries, Jewish Insider has learned.
The two-day conference that ended on Wednesday, named N7 — N for normalization and 7 for the number of participating countries — was hosted by the Jeffrey M. Talpins Foundation and the Atlantic Council, the culmination of six months of planning.
Officials from the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and Israel participated in the conference. While the organizations said they were not at liberty to reveal who was at the conference, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll and Minister of Regional Cooperation Esawi Frej tweeted pictures of their meeting with Sudanese Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari in Abu Dhabi.
“Our goal was to identify the gaps thus far in the normalization process and see where we could help make a contribution,” said William Wechsler, senior director of the Rafik Hariri Center and Middle East Programs at the Atlantic Council. “We saw that progress had largely been made on a bilateral basis, and we thought that a multilateral approach could offer added value to the countries involved. This was a gap that we could help fill.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met yesterday in Washington, D.C., with Secretary of State Tony Blinken and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed. More on their trilateral meeting below.
Between meetings at the State Department, Lapid was spotted at the Foggy Bottom Sweetgreen yesterday afternoon by JI’s Marc Rod. Photo here.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Rahm Emanuel, President Joe Biden’s nominee to be ambassador to Japan, next Wednesday.
The Foreign Relations Committee will also meet on Tuesday to vote on Tom Nides’s nomination to be ambassador to Israel and Barbara Leaf’s nomination to be assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.
A Black Muslim candidate in Florida 20th casts herself as a strong supporter of Israel
With 11 Democratic candidates now vying to fill the open seat in Florida’s 20th Congressional District, with a Nov. 2 special election primary scheduled, the question of who, if anyone, will advance former Rep. Alcee Hastings’s (D-FL) legacy on Jewish issues remains unanswered, even as a number of contenders have claimed commonalities with the late congressman. At least one candidate appears eager to boost her credentials among Jewish community leaders and pro-Israel advocates who have struggled to parse the crowded race, where no single frontrunner has yet to emerge. Barbara Sharief, a Black Muslim commissioner in Broward County, casts herself as a staunch supporter of the Jewish state, a position she described simply as “common sense” in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Money flow: Sharief — the only candidate in the crowded race whose campaign site thus far includes an issues section exclusively touting her “support for Israel” — argues strongly in favor of maintaining annual U.S. military assistance to the Jewish state. She also supports recent legislation that would provide Israel with $1 billion in supplemental aid to replenish its Iron Dome missile-defense system after the May conflict with Hamas. Without such aid, “the Middle East will become destabilized very quickly,” Sharief said. “That represents a threat for America, and I don’t think people get that.”
Two-state solution: For her part, Sharief added her belief that calls to further condition military aid to Israel are ultimately unhelpful in engendering the conditions that could lead to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “We already know that the bombs are flying, and we know that they’ve been going on for hundreds of years,” she said. “What we have to do as Americans is provide the aid, keep the Middle East stable and then try to get these people to the table to create a peace treaty and a two-state solution.”
Different view: Sharief vehemently objected to fellow candidate Omari Hardy’s recent comments in support of BDS, charging that his views betray a lack of experience “when it comes to understanding the geopolitics and the dynamics” in the region. She suggested that Hardy had only changed his stance in an effort to court support from the progressive left, though he insists his evolution is authentic. “For me, I am a Muslim-born woman, and I have a completely different opinion,” Sharief said. “BDS, you see, is never going to be successful, number one, because Hitler tried that on the Jews in 1933 and it didn’t work very well. So why is that concept, when we know how horrible it is, still being proffered today? I think it’s wrong.”
Blinken strikes grim tone on Iran deal reentry, warning ‘time is running short’
Secretary of State Tony Blinken warned in unusually blunt terms on Wednesday morning that time is running out for Iran to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal and that the Islamic Republic has not been engaging in “good faith” with efforts to revive the deal. Should efforts to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) fail, Blinken said the U.S. is “prepared to turn to other options,” Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Coming together: Blinken’s comments came during a press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, following a trilateral meeting among the three officials. Lapid met privately with Blinken later on Wednesday.
Quotable: “Despite the fact that we’ve made abundantly clear we are prepared to return to full compliance with the JCPOA if Iran does the same, what we are seeing — or maybe more accurately not seeing from Tehran now — suggests that they’re not,” Blinken said. “Time is running short because, as we’ve also had an opportunity to discuss together, we are getting closer to a point at which returning to compliance with the JCPOA will not in and of itself recapture the benefits of the JCPOA. With every passing day and Iran’s refusal to engage in good faith, the runway gets shorter.”
Administration trend: Blinken’s comments appear to reflect a growing skepticism in the Biden administration about the JCPOA’s fate. His remarks at the press conference followed comments on Wednesday morning from U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley at a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace event in which Malley said the U.S. must “prepare for a world… where Iran doesn’t have constraints on its nuclear program” and “consider options to dealing with that.” In a meeting on Tuesday, Lapid and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan discussed alternatives to the Iran deal. The issue also came up during the trilateral and bilateral meetings at the State Department on Wednesday.
Across the table: In his own comments, Lapid struck an aggressive tone toward Iran, comparing its nuclear ambitions to the Holocaust. Both Lapid’s father and Blinken’s stepfather were Holocaust survivors. “Secretary of State Blinken and I are sons of Holocaust survivors. We know there are moments when nations must use force to protect the world from evil,” Lapid said. “If the terror regime is going to acquire a nuclear weapon, we must act. We must make clear that the civilized world won’t allow it… Israel reserves the right to attack at any given moment in any way. That is not only our right, it is also our responsibility.”
on the scene
Sounding a diverse tune at the opening of Dubai Expo’s Israeli Pavilion
A group of yarmulke-clad men in suits and women in elegant dresses waited excitedly just outside the Israeli Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai. As noisy crowds entered the adjacent pavilions of India and Italy, the sounds of an Israeli band warming up to play for the pavilion’s opening rose above the din, writes Rebecca Anne Proctor, who was on the scene for Jewish Insider.
A different look: Visitors entered the main area of the pavilion by walking up a winding walkway built to emulate the form of sand dunes and shaded streets found throughout the Middle East. From a distance, the “dunes” look like they’ve been made from real sand, but a closer look revealed a concrete steel structure topped with sand-colored recycled leather. Like most of Expo 2020, the Israeli Pavilion, which opened last week, is about telling a country’s story, particularly how it sees its past and its future. Atop the zig-zagging mount was an open-steel structure where seven 15-meter-high LED screen gates showed videos of Israel’s cultural richness — from ancient ruins to contemporary dancers, small port towns and enchanting natural landscapes.
Making history: Dozens of blue and white balloons — a nod to the Israeli flag — filled the pavilion’s inner structure. Israel’s Minister of Tourism Yoel Razvozov delivered a few opening remarks, putting the event into perspective. “Many things are happening here for the first time. For the first time in history, the Expo fair is being held in an Arab country. It is also the first time there is an Israeli pavilion in a major fair on Arab soil. It is one of the most sound and robust steps toward cooperation between the United Arab Emirates and Israel in history.”
‘Toward Tomorrow’: The evening concluded on a contemporary note, with guests dancing to the catchy sounds of Hamalgezot, an Israeli band playing traditional Israeli music, followed by Israeli DJ Abass. As attendees celebrated the pavilion’s opening, the large, illuminated sign at the back of the pavilion’s main area glistened amidst the dazzling lights and moving images from the surrounding LED screens. In Aravit script, a font invented by typographer Liron Lavi Turkenich that merges Hebrew and Arabic characters, the sign spelled the phrase: “Towards Tomorrow.”
How reporting on the Middle East prepared this NYT writer to cover Facebook
For Sheera Frenkel, a New York Times reporter and the co-author of a recent best-selling book on the inner workings of Facebook, covering the social media giant was a result of “happenstance.” Now she is a must-follow reporter on the Facebook beat. Last week, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower, testified to Congress about how Facebook executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, suppressed internal research demonstrating the harms of the company’s products. Frenkel felt vindicated. “It was, I would say, incredibly satisfying to see the receipts, in a way, for everything we had been told for years,” she said. In conversation with Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch, Frenkel talked about what covering authoritarian governments taught her about the social media giant, how to use Facebook responsibly and why she separates her Jewish identity from her reporting.
Still surprising: “It’s still sometimes surprising to see [Facebook executives] justify the fact that they don’t want to hurt their engagement, that they have clear options on the table that could really decrease the amount of misinformation and hate speech, but they don’t opt for them because they’re bad for business. When you put it in black and white like that, it is still surprising, despite my knowing it for years.”
Using Facebook responsibly: “Misinformation intentionally gets people angry or upset. I just think getting people to calm down a minute and realize that Facebook’s algorithms are designed to put emotive content at the top of your newsfeed, so whatever is likely to make you angry or sad or happy is going to be the first thing you see on Facebook. Knowing that, and not letting yourself get riled up, is really important.”
Mideast emotions: “Being a Jewish person online, being a woman online: these are not identities that are easy. On the internet, there is a lot of incredibly vitriolic speech directed at any minority group. It’s sad that for some reason, women are still very much treated as a minority online. Early in my career, because I was covering the Middle East — and people are very deeply emotive about their feelings about the Middle East — I had to develop a tough skin online, because the attacks were so vicious.”
🤝 Dubai Dealings: In The Real Deal, Lidia Dinkova and Katherine Kallergis spotlight Emirati real estate investor and billionaire Hussain Sajwani, whose company, Damac, is seeking to purchase the site of the former Champlain Towers in Surfside, Fla. “Damac is a mystery to most Americans. But in the Middle East, it has a long, checkered history. Sajwani’s moniker, the ‘Donald Trump of Dubai,’ is not just a reference to his prized ties to the Trump Organization, dealings that include BelAir at The Trump Estates villas in Dubai. It’s also a nod to the Emirati’s penchant for flashy, headline-stealing projects – and his skills as a hype man. Buy a Damac home, and Sajwani may throw in a Lamborghini. Buy a villa, and you might get a studio apartment as a bonus. On more than one occasion, buyers were entered into a raffle to win a six-seater private jet.” [RealDeal]
📺 The Kibitzer: Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo profiles Discovery CEO David Zaslav following the company’s $43 billion merger with WarnerMedia — a series of interviews that took place from Burbank to the Upper West Side’s iconic appetizing shop Barney Greengrass. “Zaslav, a.k.a. Zaz (or Zas), otherwise known as DZ, lives for meetings. He loves gabbing, kibitzing, schmoozing, and peppering his companions with questions. Even during the depths of quarantine, he was as much of a social creature as lockdown would allow. He worked the phones nonstop. He took physically distanced walks along the beach. He had virtual hangouts and poker games with the likes of Jimmy Buffett, John McEnroe, Tom Freston, Cheryl Hines, Suzanne Todd, and Shelli and Irving Azoff, among others.” [VanityFair]
🎤 Humorless: In The Atlantic, Helen Lewis critiques the recent controversial comedy special released by Dave Chappelle, which, Lewis writes, “draws its energy from one of the hottest debates in popular culture, about competing claims to victimhood” and includes a joke about world-conquering ‘Space Jews.’ “Is the story here ‘rich comedian attacks marginalized community’ or ‘Black comedian attacks elite consensus’? That’s why ‘The Closer’ is structured as a series of dares. Does this joke bother you? What about this one? Early on, the audience bridles a little at a joke about the Chinese origins of the coronavirus. Chappelle soon warns that it’s only going to get worse. Running through the culture war’s greatest hits, he dares critics to take unequal offense, and prove his point about a hierarchy of suffering.” [TheAtlantic]
Bike for a Cause: The Wheels of Love bike ride, benefitting ALYN Hospital, Israel’s only pediatric rehabilitation center, is Oct. 24-26 along Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Register for one day or all three.
Apply! Know a talented news junkie? JI is looking for a social media coordinator. Apply here!
Be featured:Email us to inform the JI readership of your upcoming event, job opening, or other communication.
Around the Web
📚 Coming Soon: Former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) is opening a bookstore in Oyster Bay, N.Y., next month.
🙏 Message of Faith: In his campaign launch video, Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro referenced Pirkei Avot, noting, “As my faith teaches me, ‘No one is required to complete the task, but neither are we free to refrain from it.’ I share that lesson often, whether I’m in a synagogue, a Baptist church, or any place people gather.”
📱 Tech Trouble: A new report by the U.K. group Hope Not Hate found that COVID-19-related conspiracy theories were contributing to the proliferation of antisemitic content online.
🛑 Cancel Culture: Herschel Walker, the former star NFL running back and Republican gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, called off a fundraiser thrown by a filmmaker who displayed a rendering of a swastika on her Twitter profile, hours after a Walker spokesperson denied the image was a swastika.
🧎 Harsh Words: Television journalist Katie Couric admitted she edited a 2016 interview with the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in which Ginsburg harshly criticized kneeling during the national anthem.
🎤 Doubling Down: Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos defended the company’s distribution of comic Dave Chappelle’s new special, “The Closer,” which includes offensive jokes about minority communities.
☁️ In the Clouds & Below Ground: Oracle opened its first cloud center in Israel — designed to withstand potential terror attacks — with plans to open a second by the end of 2022.
⚽ Match Made: Israel is under consideration to host the 2030 World Cup together with other countries in the region, including the UAE, following a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
⏲️ Clock’s Ticking: The Jewish Agency’s selection committee gave Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid until Sunday to recommend a new nominee to be the organization’s chair, after Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern withdrew from the race this week.
🗳️ I’ll Be Back: Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after his ouster earlier this year, reportedly passed a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin shortly, in which he suggested that he “will be back soon.”
🇦🇺 Down Under: Australia’s Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security recommended that the country list Hamas as a terror organization.
👨🚀 Space Jew: “Star Trek” actor William Shatner became the oldest human to reach space, taking the short, 11-minute trip aboard the Blue Origin spacecraft “New Horizons.”
🪖 Syria Strike: Iran has threatened a “hard response” to an alleged Israeli strike in Syria on Wednesday night in which three pro-Iranian militia members were reportedly killed.
🏥 Hospital Hacked: An Israeli hospital, Hillel Yaffe, was hit by a ransomware attack, with doctors having to resort to pen and paper until the crisis is resolved.
👋 Newcomer: Asaf Zamir, the new consul general of Israel in New York, met with staff for the first time on Wednesday.
➡️ Transitions: Facebook has named Nicola Mendelsohn vice president of its global business group, in charge of overseeing advertising at the social media company.
🕯️ Remembering: Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Martin Sherwin died at 84.
Pic of the Day
On Wednesday evening, Dmitri Alperovitch and Maureen Hinman launched the Alperovitch Institute for Cybersecurity Studies at The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies at a ceremony atop the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.
Notable dignitaries who delivered remarks included Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, President of Johns Hopkins University Ron Daniels, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Mara Karlin and Professors Eliot A. Cohen and Thomas Rid.
Former Major League Baseball player, Art Shamsky turns 80…
Emeritus professor of history at the University of London, Shula Eta Winokur Marks turns 83… Fashion designer, philanthropist and business executive, Ralph Lauren turns 82… Former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, co-founder and a vice chairman of the Promontory Interfinancial Network and a Princeton professor, Alan Blinder turns 76… International trade attorney who held senior posts in the Office of the United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Ira Shapiro turns 74… Author, political scientist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Norman Ornstein turns 73… President and founder of Extell Development Company, Gary Barnett turns 66… Fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi turns 60… Long-time CEO of Lakewood’s Beth Medrash Govoha, the largest yeshiva in the U.S., Rabbi Aaron Kotler turns 58… Sports radio host, Jim Rome turns 57… SVP of international affairs for the ADL, Sharon Nazarian, Ph.D. turns 54… Managing partner and co-CEO for North America at Finsbury Glover Hering, Michael Feldman turns 53… President and co-founder of the R Street Institute, Eli Lehrer turns 46… Writer of “On Tech,” a New York Times newsletter, Shira Ovide turns 45… Program strategy director at Microsoft’s Defending Democracy, David Leichtman turns 43… Chief policy advisor for Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Eve S. Lieberman turns 37… Independent consultant, Chana Yemini turns 35… Actress and singer, Ariela Barer turns 23… Defenseman for the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, he is the son of hockey star Ellen Weinberg-Hughes, Quinn Hughes turns 22… Entrepreneur and sneaker reseller, known as Benjamin Kickz or the Sneaker Don, Benjamin Kapelushnik turns 22… Marsha Grossman… Jason Epstein…