👋 Good Thursday morning!
A distinguished foreign policy crowd gathered at Cafe Milano in Washington, D.C., last night to celebrate Martin Indyk’s new book Master of the Game: Henry Kissinger and The Art of Middle East Diplomacy.Prominent attendees included UAE Amb. Yousef Al Otaiba, U.S. Amb. to Israel Tom Nides, new Israeli Amb. Mike Herzog, John Kerry, Ret. Gen. Jim Jones, Gahl Burt, Ann and Tom Friedman, Jane Harman, Sally Quinn, Teresa Carlson, Alex LaManna, Rita Braver, Mandy Grunwald, Norah O’Donnell, Adam Verdugo, Kaitlan Collins, Jeffrey Goldberg and Pam Reeves, and Toni Verstandig.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan reportedly suggested a partial freeze on Iranian nuclear enrichment in exchange for the release of some of the funds frozen by the U.S. and others. The idea comes weeks before talks with Iran are set to resume in Vienna on Nov. 29.
Sullivan’s Israeli counterpart, Eyal Hulata, is said to have opposed the proposal according to Barak Ravid, arguing that an interim nuclear agreement would lead to a permanent one that leaves Iran with enrichment capabilities and a stockpile of uranium.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), who voted against the 2015 Iran deal, told Jewish Insider on Wednesday evening that he wasn’t familiar with the specific proposal, but appeared skeptical.Cardin said of a possible deal, “I think you’ve got to nail it down. You have to have inspections. There’s a lot of things that have to be done. So I have to see what the details from it [are].”
Olli Heinonen, a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center and former deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told JI that such an arrangement would be largely ineffectual given the advanced status of Iran’s program.
Heinonen described Iran as a “nuclear threshold state” that could produce enough nuclear material for a weapon in just one month. “This puts the focus on the unknowns, which are not being handled properly at all, which is the nuclear weapon design,” he explained — an area of development that is more difficult to monitor and which could continue even under the proposed deal.
He continued, “The question is are they only buying time?… We are not at all in the situation [that existed] in summer 2015, nor in the situation which was in 2018 when the U.S. bailed out” of the deal. Heinonen added that even the original JCPOA would likely be insufficient to contain Iran given its progress since then.
The Senate voted last night on a procedural motion to begin debate on the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, which Senate leadership is aiming to pass prior to Thanksgiving.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfieldmet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh and other senior officials yesterday in Ramallah to continue efforts to rebuild the U.S.-Palestinian relationship, according to a readout by the U.S. Mission to the U.N.
Thomas-Greenfield reiterated the Biden administration’s support for a two-state solution. The ambassador also met with students from the Jalazone UNRWA girl’s school and Palestinian civil society leaders in the West Bank. She highlighted ongoing U.S. efforts to support Palestinians “through a more efficient UNRWA that respects humanitarian principles such as neutrality.“
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides will arrive in Jerusalem to begin his posting after the Thanksgiving holiday, according to Israeli reports. Israel’s Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked met with Nides in Washington yesterday, the first Israeli cabinet member to do so since Nides was confirmed by the Senate.
Turkish authorities released an Israeli couple who had been detained over a photo they took of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s palace in Istanbul last week and they returned home to Israel early Thursday morning.
Jazz Lewis steps out
On a cold and rainy morning earlier this month, Jazz Lewis sat outside a Starbucks two blocks from the U.S. Capitol — the building where he had worked for seven years, until October. It was “kind of weird,” Lewis told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch, to be on Capitol Hill as a visitor and not an employee. But he doesn’t expect his hiatus from the central hub of American democracy to last very long. He resigned from his position as senior policy advisor to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) last month to run for Congress in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District.
The why: “Folks ask me about the why,” said Lewis. “We are grounding it in issues that are really important to our district, like food deserts and access to healthcare.” The big draw of Congress is “resources,” said Lewis, who also serves part-time in Annapolis as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, where he chairs the Democratic caucus. “Especially with the ability to talk directly to the secretary of agriculture or [Housing and Urban Development], we can direct resources to communities like mine that lack access to fresh food.”
Early endorsement: Lewis, 32, will face a tough competitor in Glenn Ivey, a former county prosecutor nearly twice Lewis’s age who has been a political mainstay in the county for more than two decades. But Lewis garnered an early boost from his former boss, Hoyer, who endorsed him last week. “Jazz has always fought for our community,” Hoyer said in the endorsement. “He is a dear friend, and I can think of no one I would rather have as my partner in representing Prince Georgians in Congress.”
Working in the present: Lewis is “unabashedly a progressive,” he says, but one who intends to make compromises to pass legislation. “Folks want change today, right? Not something perfect five years from now,” Lewis explained. “They want something that will help them today. And I think we need to keep that in mind as we’re working with legislation.”
‘One of our core friends’: On foreign policy, Lewis named Israel as “one of our core friends.” He added that he “would have 100% voted” for a recent bill providing supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system that passed the House in September 420-9. (The bill remains stalled in the Senate.) “It’s fair for friends to criticize each other,” Lewis explained. “It’s not fair for friends to put the safety and security of their people at risk. And that’s what was on the line there. That wasn’t a vote of conscience.”
Seeking consensus: “A lot of people in the Jewish community view him as not only a potential… pro-Israel voice, but potentially a strong progressive pro-Israel voice like Ritchie Torres,” said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, referring to the freshman Democratic congressman from the Bronx. Like Torres, Lewis did not express a desire to align with the Squad. “I see myself as a consensus-maker. I hope to make friends of the Squad as much as I hope to make friends of anyone who’s willing to work with me to move forward the issues that are important to people in my district,” Lewis said.
Sen. Cardin sees potential for resolving Jerusalem consulate dispute
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), who led a congressional trip to Israel last week, told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod yesterday that he believes it’s possible for the U.S. and Israel to come to an agreement about reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem.
Showdown: Members of the Israeli government from across the political spectrum have been steadfastly opposed to the Biden administration’s plans to reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem that served Palestinians, which was shuttered by the Trump administration in 2019.
Room for improvement: Cardin, who met last week with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, believes the dispute is solvable. “I think it’s an issue that can be resolved between the two countries,” Cardin said. “But obviously anything with Jerusalem is sensitive.”
At issue: He noted that, based on conversations with Israeli officials, their primary concern is not the consulate itself, but the prospect that the consulate could open the door to dividing Jerusalem or ending U.S. recognition of the city as Israel’s capital. “I think the view there is that this needs to be talked out between the Israelis and the Americans,” the Maryland senator said. “The consulate in Jerusalem, in and of itself, is not controversial. But if it gets engaged at all in regards to the peace process or legitimacy of the capital for Israel, then it becomes an issue.”
on the hill
Orthodox groups push for changes to pre-K and childcare provisions in Build Back Better
After months of intraparty brinkmanship, House Democratic leadership is aiming to vote this week on Build Back Better, Democrats’ nearly $2 trillion social policy bill. But a coalition of religious groups, including major Orthodox Jewish advocacy organizations, are pushing for changes to key provisions before the bill passes Congress, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. As currently written, three specific provisions in the mammoth spending package could make it difficult for religious programs to receive childcare and universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) funding or deter them from seeking it out, individuals who’ve lobbied on the measure told JI.
Shut out: UPK aid would be distributed in the form of a direct grant to preschools, which constitutionally cannot go to programs with religious content. Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel of America’s vice president for government affairs, told JI the legislation would prevent any programs that celebrate Jewish holidays or include Jewish blessings — key elements of Orthodox Jewish preschool programs — from receiving funding. “The limitation is so great that it effectively cuts out religious faith-based UPK providers,” Cohen said.
New designation: The bill also includes language stating that childcare aid — which would be administered via certificates — would be considered federal financial assistance to the provider, raising questions about whether religious groups would be eligible. “All kinds of things that have never applied to [providers] before are now going to apply,” Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, told JI.
Nondiscrimination: The bill could also make both the childcare and pre-K programs subject to a slate of additional antidiscrimination requirements, including those in the 2007 Head Start Act. Cohen said these requirements could exclude single-sex programs and impact whether faith-based providers can give preference to members of their own faith.
Counterproductive: Diament and Cohen argued that the restrictions would ultimately undercut the effectiveness of the two programs in question by excluding major childcare providers across the nation. Religious organizations provide childcare and preschool to more than half of families in the U.S. using such services, according to a 2020 Bipartisan Policy Center survey. “You can’t say you want religious organizations involved and then say, ‘We’re going to write the rules so that you can’t teach about Hanukkah and sing Hanukkah songs in your pre-K program because we’re going to write rules that make that impermissible,” Diament said.
beauty queen of jerusalem
Miss Universe tours Jerusalem ahead of first-ever pageant in Israel
Draped in a white satin sash but minus her crown, the winner of last year’s Miss Universe pageant, Andrea Meza, toured Jerusalem’s holy sites on Wednesday, expressing hope that the international beauty pageant will serve as a forum for empowering women and bringing together people of all faiths, nationalities and backgrounds. “This is my first time in Israel and I am very excited to see Jerusalem’s Old City,” Meza, 27, told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash. Meza, who hails from Mexico, arrived on Monday in Israel, where the annual competition is set to take place here for the first time — in the southern city of Eilat, on Dec. 12.
No pressure: Meza dismissed controversies lobbied at such beauty contests in the age of #MeToo, heightened feminism and political correctness. Meza also said she had not felt pressure to boycott this year’s pageant because it is taking place in Israel — as some of the contestants have. “I have to mention that Miss Universe is not a political or religious movement,” Meza, who was crowned in May after the 2020 pageant was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, stated. “It is about the women who are participating, about what they have to offer and about all of us coming together.”
Politicization: Despite appeals not to politicize the event, the fact the 70th annual pageant is taking place in Israel has evoked some strong responses. On Sunday, the government of South Africa announced that it was dissociating itself from a decision by the reigning Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, to take part.
Good relations: Miss Universe United Arab Emirates will participate for the first time and Miss Universe Morocco returns to the competition after a four-decade absence, the organizers said. Both countries signed normalization agreements with Israel last year. “There were some comments on social media,” said Meza of her own decision to travel to Israel. “But I think Mexico and Israel have a good relationship.”
🎓 Campus Chaos: Politico’s Alex Thompson reports on how infighting related to racism and antisemitism among the leadership of College Democrats of America has risen to a level such that the Democratic National Committee is considering disaffiliating from the organization. “The group’s leaders are publicly firing off accusations of anti-Blackness, Islamaphobia and anti-Semitism at each other. Impeachment proceedings are now in the works against the organization’s new vice president, Nourhan Mesbah, who is Muslim. College Democrats say that screenshots of tweets that their peers sent in adolescence spread rapidly through group texts, which already caused a student running for president of the group to withdraw their candidacy in September. And national advocacy groups for Muslim and Jewish Americans are now weighing in with criticism.” [Politico]
🎉 Man About This Town: Washingtonian’s Jessica Sidman profiles D.C. nightlife operator Vinoda Basnayake, who by day is a lobbyist working for clients ranging from Qatar to South Korea. “A protégé of the famed late King of K Street, Tommy Boggs, Basnayake reps foreign governments and corporations. He has the ear of government on both sides of the federal/local divide — a Hill top-lobbyist list-maker, a confidant of D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser, and no stranger to a White House holiday party. Between nightlife and swamp life, Basnayake has thrived in the murky thickets where it pays to be the guy who knows a guy.” [Washingtonian]
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Around the Web
⚖️ In the Courts: Survivors and families of the victims of the Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside, Fla., are suing the developers who worked on a nearby building, arguing that the work destabilized the tower and contributed to the building’s June collapse that killed 98 people.
💉 Swamp Fever: A spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis alluded to an antisemitic conspiracy theory linking the Rothschild family to a COVID “green pass” system, after the Republic of Georgia announced it will institute special permissions for those who are fully vaccinated, recovered or have taken a recent test.
💸 Boxer Battle: The New York Times’s John Leland spotlights octogenarian Martin Stein, a Mafia-affiliated boxer in his youth who in his later years has had his fortune tied up in a family conservatorship battle.
🛑 Hold Up: Germany’s energy regulator halted the approval of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will bring gas from Russia to Europe.
👦 Temporary Stay: The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the 6-year-old who was the sole survivor of an Italian gondola crash earlier this year will stay in Israel for the next week as the court reviews an appeal filed by the child’s grandfather to keep him in the country.
☀️ Desert Deal: Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates are expected to sign an agreement next week to build a solar farm in the Jordanian desert, the largest regional cooperation project Israel has undertaken with allies in the region.
🖥️ Hack Job: Candiru, one of the Israeli companies blacklisted this month by the U.S. Commerce Department, was reportedly behind the hacking of a U.K. news site.
💽 Cyber Crime: American and British authorities accused Iran of orchestrating ongoing cyberattacks against U.S. infrastructure and Australian firms.
🧹 Close Call with the Cleaner: A housekeeper working in the home of Defense Minister Benny Gantz was arrested and charged with espionage for allegedly offering to help an Iran-affiliated body via his access to Gantz’s house, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said in a statement today.
💰 Booming Business: Private investment in Israel’s defense and cyber technologies soared to $6 billion, triple the amount raked in last year, said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
🤝 Cyber Alliance: Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) introduced an amendment adding a joint U.S.-Israel cybersecurity program to the Senate’s version 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. The House included the program in its version of the bill.
🕯️ Remembering: Attorney Susan Rosenblatt, who with her husband took on Big Tobacco in the 1990s, died at 70. Bard College professor Justus Rosenberg, who took part in the French resistance and fought alongside American troops in WWII, died at 100. Dave Frishberg, renowned jazz pianist, songwriter and composer, whose songs appeared regularly on ABC’s “Schoolhouse Rock” series, died at 88.
Pic of the Day
Actress Helen Mirren as former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in a still from the upcoming biopic “Golda.”
Israeli cantor and actor, known for his Broadway performance as Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables,” David “Dudu” Fisher turns 70…
Roberta “Bobbie” Goldstein turns 83… Israeli theoretical physicist and later president of the Weizmann Institute, Haim Harari turns 81… Potomac, Md., resident, Richard Gorman turns 81… National director of major gifts for the American Committee for the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Paul Jeser turns 76… Lecturer at Boston University School of Law, Eric D. Roiter turns 73… Atlanta resident, Lynda Wolfe… Professor of immunology at Columbia University, Walter Ian Lipkin turns 69… Former U.S. ambassador to South Africa and a luxury handbag designer, Lana J. Marks turns 68… Author and singer-songwriter, Barry Louis Polisar turns 67… Longtime former play-by-play sportscaster for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, Marc Zumoff turns 66… Former mayor of Dallas, Laura Miller turns 63… SVP and general counsel of HSP Group and ARF Financial, Robert Bruce Lapidus turns 63… Moroccan-born member of the Knesset for the Shas party, Yaakov Margi turns 61… NYC-based writer, activist and performer, Shira Dicker turns 61… Washington correspondent for The New York Times covering health policy, Sheryl Gay Stolberg turns 60… Attorney and philanthropist, Laurie Luskin turns 58… Rabbi of Burbank Temple Emanu El and national coordinator of Rabbis Without Borders, Tsafreer “Tsafi” Lev turns 50… Member of the Knesset for the New Hope party, Michal Shir turns 42… Real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Timberland Properties in the Catskills, Talia Fadis turns 34… Israeli singer-songwriter and music producer, Elisha Banai turns 33…