👋 Good Monday morning!
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)struck a deal early Saturday morning that saw the Texas senator lift his holds on 32 ambassadorial and senior State Department nominees, in exchange for a vote next month on sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Before heading home last week, the Senate confirmed the nominee for ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, by a vote of 48-21, as well as Michael Adler and Marc Stanley by voice votes. Adler and Stanley were nominated to be the U.S. ambassadors to Belgium and Argentina, respectively. Rufus Gifford, who served last year as President Joe Biden’s deputy campaign manager, was confirmed by a voice vote to be chief of protocol at the State Department with the rank of ambassador.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has shut down the Build Back Better bill. He announced Sunday morning after months of negotiations that he would not support the bill, leaving a range of provisions — including a funding boost for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program and expanded child care and pre-K funding — in limbo.
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who led the push to include the NSGP funding in the bill, told Jewish Insider, “The [NSGP] is an invaluable tool to ensure the safety of Jewish communities across the country, and I was proud to fight for its inclusion in the House-passed text of the Build Back Better Act. We cannot allow inaction on this important legislation, which includes numerous critically needed provisions. I will continue working with leadership to see that Jewish institutions are protected from threats of violence.”
Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel of America’s vice president for government affairs, told JI, “I am not of the opinion that BBB is necessarily dead, and suspect that the legislation, or parts of it, will come back in some form in the coming year. This extra time will give us an opportunity to further educate Congress on the issues of importance to us, including an expanded NSGP and the new UPK/child care programs.”
Israel added the U.S. to a list of “red countries” as the country battles the COVID-19 Omicron variant, effective at midnight on Tuesday. The decision was passed today in a telephone vote by the cabinet, pending the approval of the Knesset Constitution, Justice and Law Committee. Canada, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Morocco, Portugal, Turkey and Switzerland were also added to the list of red countries under a travel ban to and from Israel.
Israeli Consul General in New York Asaf Zamir tested positive for COVID-19, along with 12 other consulate employees.
Chilean presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, a leftist who has in the past called on the country’s Jewish population to denounce Israeli policies, was declared the winner of this weekend’s elections, after besting right-wing candidate Jose Antonio Kast.
young at heart
The Indiana senator with a bipartisan streak on the Middle East
For years, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) has worked to articulate a progressive foreign policy, building a name for himself among supporters of diplomacy and anti-war activists. He has found an unlikely ally in Sen. Todd Young, an Indiana Republican who spent the 2020 election cycle overseeing Republicans’ Senate campaign arm. The pair has led the effort in Washington to rein in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, issuing several statements together forcefully calling attention to the country’s devastating humanitarian crisis and Washington’s role in perpetuating it. “Murphy is a critical thinker. I like working with Murphy,” Young said during an interview with Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutchin his Senate office on Capitol Hill last week.
Getting noticed: In his first term in the Senate, Young has become an unexpected leader on issues of foreign policy, and one with a penchant for flying under the radar. In April, Business Insider called Young “the most important senator you’ve never heard of.”
Quick reversal: In May, while Israel and Hamas were embroiled in a deadly flare-up, Young and Murphy — who together lead the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Near East subcommittee — again joined together to speak in one voice on the Middle East, issuing a joint statement calling for a cease-fire. Young was the only Republican to sign onto the letter, but within hours, he removed his name. As Young remembers it, a news report suggested that Israel supported a cease-fire. “It said in there, ‘Israeli government seeks cease-fire,’” Young recalled. But he later learned the reality was more complicated.
All the facts: Young realized, he told JI last week, that it “would embolden Hamas, if you call for a cease-fire before, frankly, before the State of Israel has an opportunity to respond in kind and demonstrate that Israel will respond, and that’s necessary for their own deterrence,” he explained. “I was persuaded by that latter argument, unfortunately after having affixed my signature,” he added. “I’m willing to admit when I don’t have all the information. You never have all the information. But I learned more, and I changed my position accordingly.”
Limits to bipartisanship: The public divergence from Murphy, who did not comment at the time on Young’s reversal and did not respond to a recent request for comment from JI, shows that Young’s work with progressive Democrats on foreign policy may have its limits. Murphy has been a leading supporter of the Biden administration’s efforts to renegotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, while Young opposes reentering the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “We shouldn’t go back to the JCPOA,” Young, who is up for reelection in 2022, said. He called for increasing sanctions on Iran, and said that “we should reassure Israel that whatever they decide to do,” he explained, “we’ll be supportive of that.”
No permanent partners: To Young, this fissure with Murphy is not indicative of a problem in their relationship, or with other sometimes-partners from across the aisle. It’s a defining feature of his approach to foreign policy. “There are no permanent partners,” said Young.
on the hill
Senators push for Israel to be added to Visa Waiver Program
A bipartisan group of 18 senators led by Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Rick Scott (R-FL) sent a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Friday supporting Israel’s efforts to be added to the Visa Waiver Program, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Quotable: “We believe that adding Israel to the list of eligible countries would achieve the two explicit missions of the VWP program: to enhance national security and to boost the U.S. travel and tourism sector,” the letter — a copy of which was obtained by JI — reads. “Israel – our closest ally in the Middle East – is a perfect candidate for the Visa Waiver program.”
No timeline: The letter comes on the heels of comments by Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary for Policy Rob Silvers to Jewish Insider last week that there are “no timelines announced” on adding Israel to the program. The DHS “strongly support[s]” the effort but Israel “will have to meet all the requirements for program participation,” Silvers added. Israeli officials have painted a more optimistic picture. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said in November that she expects Israel to be added to the program by 2023.
John Hancock: The other signatories to the letter were Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Mike Braun (R-IN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Josh Hawley (R-MO), John Hoeven (R-ND), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Tim Scott (R-SC).
Tom Nelson wants to bridge Wisconsin’s rural-urban divide
If Tom Nelson seems like a dark-horse candidate in Wisconsin’s crowded Democratic Senate primary, the 45-year-old Outagamie County executive argues that he has defied expectations before, including in his first bid for public office in 2004, when he won election to Wisconsin’s state Assembly by unseating a Republican incumbent in a predominantly rural district of the state. “That’s basically my mic-drop pitch,” Nelson said in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, “and I don’t know a single person I’ve called on the phone or an audience I’ve spoken to that doesn’t start nodding.”
Primary obstacle: Whatever his chances are in the general election, Nelson must first prove himself in the August primary against a number of top contenders, including two well-funded opponents — Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry and State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski — and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, a progressive stalwart with a national profile who has led the limited publicly available polling by double digits.
‘Left alternative’: Nelson’s main policy areas, he says, are economic security, health security and climate change. A 2020 delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Nelson supports Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, and he advocates for a “blue-green coalition” that will unite the labor and environmental movements. “Nelson is trying to outflank Barnes on the left,” Paul Nolette, an associate professor of political science at Marquette University, told JI. “He’s setting himself up as sort of being the left alternative.”
Working-class connection: Nelson, who describes himself as an “economic populist,” said his political views were instilled in him while growing up in Little Chute, a small town in northeast Wisconsin. “It was a blue-collar neighborhood, so all the dads worked at paper mills,” said Nelson, the author of One Day Stronger: How One Union Local Saved a Mill and Changed an Industry — and What It Means for American Manufacturing, published in March. “My dad, as I like to say, wore the white collar. He was a Lutheran pastor.”
Eye on Israel: “I have a personal appreciation of the significance of the Holy Land and how we have an obligation, consistent in the Judeo-Christian tradition, to do all we can to achieve peace,” said Nelson, who has earned an endorsement from J Street along with Barnes, Lasry and Godlewski. Nelson supports Iron Dome funding and says he is in favor of “end-use restrictions” on U.S. aid to Israel — a new policy objective championed by J Street. Nelson is the only Wisconsin Senate candidate among those backed by J Street to explicitly support end-use restrictions.
🎄 Home Alone: In AirMail, Larry David recounts the beginning of his annual Christmas tradition: eating Chinese food and watching a movie — by himself. “Except for running out of avocado, my first Christmas alone could not have gone better. Occasionally, I need a little me time to remember what a multifaceted fellow I am. I spent the day practicing the harp, putting the finishing touches on my self-portrait, and re-reading the Oxford English Dictionary… Then, on my way home, just as I was contemplating the bowl of Special K I was reduced to having for dinner, I noticed a crowd of people lined up on the street and saw that my local Chinese restaurant was open for business, with every Jew in the neighborhood inside. I didn’t even particularly like the food there, but that night I went to town and ordered all the dishes from my childhood. Shrimp with lobster sauce, my father’s favorite. Spare ribs. Fried rice. Egg-drop soup. Sweet-and-sour chicken. A cholesterol-laden feast fit for a ne’er-do-well.” [AirMail]
🇷🇺 Soft on Russia? Bloomberg’s Eli Lake argues that President Joe Biden, despite taking a strong stance against Russia on the campaign trail, has not matched his policies to those expectations. “For four years, Democrats portrayed themselves as a party of Russia hawks, in contrast to a president they saw as Putin’s lackey. But since Biden came into office, his administration has stopped enforcing major sanctions on Russia’s pipeline to Germany, held off on punishing Russian hacks of critical infrastructure and now seeks to deter a Russian invasion of Ukraine with threats alone.” [Bloomberg]
🤔 The Dignity of Work: Benjamin Wallace-Wells, writing in The New Yorker, reached out to Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel for his insights into how candidates like Joe Biden in the U.S. and Olaf Schloz in Germany won electoral support, and how Democrats should change their messaging into a winning strategy. “The bracing part of Sandel’s argument,” Wallace-Wells writes, “lies in his conviction that Democrats must break with the meritocratic liberalism — the preference for the smart over the dumb, the slogans about believing in science, the cool technocratic ease — that defined Barack Obama. But the figure in whom Sandel places his hopes is Obama’s Vice President, who publicly venerates the former President and employs much of his staff.” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
🎧 Boiling Mic: Former President Donald Trump claimed that American Jews “don’t like Israel or care about Israel” and made comments about a Jewish family’s ownership of The New York Times, according to portions of an interview he gave to journalist Barak Ravid that were played on the podcast “Unholy: Two Jews on the News.”
🇵🇹 Right of Return: Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich was granted Portuguese citizenship under a law that recognizes the descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from the country.
📖 Historic Relics: An excavation in Germany unearthed the site of a “Jewish home,” where Jewish families were placed before deportation, as well as prayer books used by a family that did not survive the Holocaust.
👎 Bad Lesson: An instructor at a Washington, D.C., school was placed on leave after having third-grade students recreate episodes from the Holocaust.
👨✈️ Profile in Courage:The New York Times profiles Si Spiegel, a Jewish pilot bomber during World War II who went on to pioneer the manufacture of artificial Christmas trees.
🪖 Apprehended: Israeli security forces arrested a number of members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in connection with the killing of an Israeli man in the West Bank last week.
🅱️ Plan B: The Washington Post’s David Ignatius argues that the U.S. should pressure Iran through the International Atomic Energy Agency to comply with the 2015 nuclear agreement if negotiations in Vienna fail.
☢️Back Channel: Israel is lobbying the Biden administration to push for a stronger deal constraining Iran’s nuclear program, fearing that a return to the 2015 accord would not be sufficient.
🇮🇷 Thoughts on Iran: The U.S. believes Iran’s breakout time to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium is “really short,” according to a senior Biden administration official; the IAEA chief doubts that surveillance from an Iranian centrifuge facility is missing, even though Iran has not shared it.
❌ Cancellation Policy: The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, scheduled for next month, has been called off due to concerns regarding the Omicron coronavirus variant.
💸 Aleph’s Bet: Aleph raised $300 million in its fourth round of funding, bringing the total amount the venture capital firm has raised to $835 million.
🕵️ Meta Matchup: Facebook is removing accounts from six cyber-intelligence firms, four of which are Israeli, claiming they abuse social media sites to spy on journalists, activists and other civilians for profit.
📗 Book Shelf: Andrew Lawler’s new book, Under Jerusalem: The Buried History of the World’s Most Contested City, tells the history of archeology in Jerusalem, describing its evolution from Christian Zionist archaeology into Jewish nationalist archaeology and the more recent beginnings of Palestinian Arab archaeology.
🔥 Same Song: The New York Times reports on how the May conflict between Israel and Hamas has done little to change the terror group’s standing in the Gaza Strip, which it has controlled since 2007.
🕯️ Remembering: Henry Orenstein, a Holocaust survivor who went on to create the “Transformers” toys, died at 98. Sex therapist Shirley Zussman, who was trained by Masters and Johnson and worked until two years ago, died at 107. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who represented Georgia from 2005-2019, died at 76. Writer Eve Babitz, a staple in the Hollywood scene for decades, died at 78. Architect Richard Rogers, who designed the Pompidou Center, died at 88.
Pic of the Day
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides (center) visits KamaTech, an organization in B’nei Brak helping promote Orthodox engineers in the local Israeli high-tech industry, on Thursday.
Actor, producer, screenwriter and comedian, known by his first and middle names, Jonah Hill Feldstein turns 38…
Founder of an online children’s bookstore, Yona Eckstein turns 80… Former chair of the executive committee of The Jewish Federations of North America, he also served three terms as president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Michael Gelman turns 77… Illusionist and magician, Uri Geller turns 75… Television producer and creator of “Law & Order,” “Chicago” and “FBI” franchises, Richard Anthony “Dick” Wolf turns 75… Playa Del Rey, Calif., resident, Carol Gene Berk turns 71… Owner of the Beverly Hilton Hotel and the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills, Beny Alagem turns 69… President of the University of Miami since 2015 and former secretary of health of Mexico, Julio Frenk turns 68… Bob Lindenbaum turns 68… Educational advocate and strategist at the Melmed Center in Scottsdale, Ariz., Ricki Light turns 64… Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Yale, Tamar Szabó Gendler turns 56…
Psychotherapist and author of the “Dear Therapist” column for The Atlantic, Lori Gottlieb turns 55… Israeli general and current commander of the Israeli Air Force, Amikam Norkin turns 55… Executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, Jeremy Burton turns 53… Swiss-born British philosopher and author, Alain de Botton turns 52… Former tight end for the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints, now a senior sales rep for Medtronic, Scott Lawrence Slutzker turns 49… Israeli-American television and film writer, Ron Leshem turns 45… Development executive at the UJA-Federation of New York, Adam Wolfthal turns 36… Denver-based managing director at the Israel on Campus Coalition, Megan Nathan… Humor and fashion writer best known as Man Repeller, Leandra Medine Cohen turns 33… Israeli singer Ofir Ben Shitrit turns 26…