👋 Good Wednesday morning!
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, along with Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, will light Hanukkah candles tonight at 5:30 PM in a small event in the East Room of the White House, with approximately 150 guests attending.
Speaking last night at a virtual congressional Hanukkah celebration, Emhoff reflected on the “honor” of being the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president.
Emhoff said, “To think of those humble beginnings, a kid born in Brooklyn, raised in central New Jersey, and now living in the vice president’s residence and being able to light a menorah, it’s humbling… This representation really matters. I feel it for my 84-year-old father, and his friends.”
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) told Jewish Insider that he has reached out to House leadership about including the $1 billion Iron Dome supplement in the upcoming short-term government funding resolution (continuing resolution) but has not received a response.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters earlier Tuesday that he was looking to bring the bill to the floor as soon as today.
Gottheimer added that “it’s unclear” how long the stopgap funding might last, “so I think a lot of that will play in,” but said he and the more than 80 lawmakers who signed a recent letter on the subject “think it should be included in the continuing resolution, and I feel strongly about that.”
Michael Adler, the Miami real estate developer nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Belgium, will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a confirmation hearing today.
Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin will visit Richmond’s Keneseth Beth Israel synagogue this afternoon, where he will attend Mincha services and light Hanukkah candles with the community.
Bipartisan leaders on the House Foreign Affairs Committee — Reps. Greg Meeks (D-NY), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) — introduced a bill that would sanction any individual involved in the direct or indirect supply, transfer or sale of combat drones to or from Iran.
The Stop Iranian Drones Act also states that it is U.S. policy to prevent “Iran and Iranian-aligned terrorist and militia groups” from acquiring drones that can be used against U.S. and partner nations’ personnel, including commercially available parts.
Amid electricity crisis, Lebanon likely to receive Israeli fuel
Egyptian gas could start flowing to Lebanon in the next two to three months, the U.S. State Department’s senior advisor for global energy security, Amos Hochstein, said in a CNBC interview earlier this week. But unspoken in Hochstein’s Monday interview — and in public comments about the deal from leaders in the four Arab nations — is that the natural gas reaching Lebanon will almost certainly include not just Egyptian but also Israeli gas, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
In plain sight: “I think it is the worst-kept secret in town, and in fact, it’s not secret anymore. Everybody in the region knows,” said David Schenker, who served as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs in former President Donald Trump’s administration. “Hezbollah is well aware of this, and once again, they’re in a difficult position. They can’t say no. Beggars, in this case, can’t be choosers.”
‘Stealth’ normalization? The natural gas that reaches Jordan from Egypt is mixed with natural gas from Israel, so the two products are typically indistinguishable, according to the Atlantic Council. But Schenker, who is currently the Taube Senior Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, cautions that just because Lebanon accepts the reality of using Israeli natural gas at a moment of acute crisis does not mean the country is preparing to build ties with Israel. People may be tempted to call it “stealth normalization,” Schenker said, but “I don’t think it’s going to improve the environment at all between Lebanon and Israel.”
On the brink: “This notion that Lebanon always teeters but never falls? That’s not necessarily true,” Hochstein told CNBC. “We need to be vigilant and we need to do everything we can.” The natural gas would flow from Egypt to Lebanon through Jordan and Syria. Lebanon is in the midst of an economic recession and an electricity crisis, with rolling blackouts leaving most people in the country with just a few hours of electricity a day.
Outdone by Iran: The deal required special involvement from the U.S. due to sanctions imposed by Washington on Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria after more than 10 years of civil war. But the U.S. also sought to play a role after Lebanon received shipments of Iranian fuel in September, secured by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. “I think this administration was somewhat embarrassed or chagrined to see the Iranians smuggling oil into Syria, which was a re-transfer into Lebanon,” explained Schenker.
on the hill
Portman rules out quick passage of Senate Iron Dome supplement bill
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) appeared on Tuesday to rule out the possibility of passing the $1 billion supplement to Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system as a standalone item in the Senate by unanimous consent. The Ohio senator cited “at least one member — maybe a couple” who are blocking the supplement’s swift passage, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Alternate means: Speaking to a virtual meeting organized by the Ohio Jewish Communities, Portman said that senators are exploring other options for passing the supplement, which has been blocked by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), including adding it to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. “It’s too bad,” Portman said. “I wish I could tell you that everybody’s going to go along with it, but I think there will still be at least that one objection and maybe others. And so we’re going to have to put it in a different kind of a vehicle where there has to be a 60-vote margin, rather than unanimous consent.”
More quagmires: Portman further alluded to the difficulties facing the Israel Relations Normalization Act, which he sponsored, in the Senate, namely opposition from former cosponsor Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who is objecting to language added to the bill supporting a two-state solution. “That legislation is not without controversy,” Portman said. “We’ve got some people that want to amend it in ways that would be counterproductive.”
Meeting of the minds: Portman offered high praise for Israeli President Isaac Herzog, whom he met during the trip to Israel. “He is more hands-on, I would say, than even previous presidents have been that I have met,” Portman said. “I think President Herzog is well respected as an objective, nonpartisan guy. He wants to improve the U.S. relationship.”
Bridging the gap: Portman also recounted a conversation the group had with young Palestinians who are part of a U.S. embassy program to improve relationships between Israeli and Palestinian youth. “I realized that they didn’t have much of a sense of how Israel operates and the fact that there are a lot of Arabs in Israel… and that there’s freedom of religion and freedom of speech,” Portman said. “I asked them at one point, ‘Have you ever talked to an Israeli?’ and there were kind of blank stares all around… It’s important that we provide these kinds of exchanges, but we’ve got to be sure they’re real exchanges.”
Airbnb back in the geopolitical spotlight
Airbnb hosts more than a dozen listings in the northern Chinese territory of Xinjiang on land owned by a sanctioned company, Axios reported yesterday. The company’s response to the story recalls another geopolitical matter it publicly weighed in on three years ago, when Airbnb vowed to remove 200 listings in Jewish West Bank settlements.
Serious abuses: The landowner, Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, was sanctioned in 2020 for“serious rights abuses against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” according to the Treasury Department. But the Airbnb spokesperson did not criticize China. “We believe China is an important part of our purpose to connect people from around the world,” said spokesperson Christopher Nulty, who also told Axios that Airbnb does not believe the listings violate U.S. sanctions. (Airbnb is also a top-level sponsor of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.)
Throwback: The approach marks a divergence from Airbnb’s handling of rental listings in the West Bank. In 2019, the company reversed its controversial decision to remove Jewish listings located in the West Bank. But Airbnb released a detailed statement outlining its reasoning on the complexities of the issue; it offered no such explanation regarding the Uyghur issue.
Soft power: “China has both the political and economic leverage to demand quiescence from major global brands, and is not shy in exercising it,” David Schraub, assistant professor of law at Lewis & Clark Law School, told JI. “Even if Israel wished to mimic China on this front — and perhaps it does — Israel simply does not have the massive geopolitical resources, both in terms of hard and soft power, that China possesses, and so it is more vulnerable to challenge.”
Ten books to read in December
In the fourth installment of a series exploring new and upcoming books, the team at Jewish Insider previews top titles coming out in December:
In the East: How My Father and a Quarter Million Polish Jews Survived the Holocaust by Mikhal Dekel (Dec. 7): Dekel looks at her father’s youth as a “Tehran child,” one of roughly 1,000 Polish Jewish children — mostly orphans — to escape the Holocaust by being resettled in Iran before ultimately immigrating to present-day Israel later in the war.
52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen, by Faith Kramer (Dec. 14): J.Weekly columnist Kramer reimagines the Shabbat dinner, drawing from Jewish traditions from around the globe — from Mexico to Ethiopia — to give new life to the tradition.
The Defense Lawyer: The Barry Slotnick Story, by James Patterson (Dec. 20): Patterson’s latest book chronicles the career of defense attorney Barry Slotnick, the Bronx-born son of Orthodox immigrants, as he rose to prominence defending clients from Mafia bosses to members of Congress.
A Knock at the Door: The Story of My Secret Work With Israeli MIAs and POWs, by Ory Slonim (Dec. 21): Slonim chronicles his professional career as the first “door-knocker” — the government-linked official whose duty for two decades was to search for and return IDF soldiers and operatives who went missing abroad.
🪖 Talk of This Town: The New York Times’s Mark Leibovich looks at the challenges facing National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, a longtime senior aide to President Joe Biden, who has faced the brunt of criticism directed at the administration following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. “Washington has long been captivated by fallen star narratives. This has made Mr. Sullivan a figure of fascination in recent months, something between sympathy and schadenfreude. His daily mission of managing a sprawling national security apparatus through simultaneous crises and headaches — growing tensions with China, healing a rift with France over a nuclear submarine deal, cyberattacks — has made Mr. Sullivan the face of a foreign policy team that has endured criticism from many directions, most pointedly over Afghanistan.” [NYTimes]
🤣 Laugh Track: The Washington Post’s Dan Zak explores the impact of upcoming Kennedy Center Honoree Lorne Michaels and “Saturday Night Live” as the sketch comedy show nears its 50th year. “It’s impossible to list every memorable moment, every flourished talent, every dent of Lorne’s impact in television and movies, and in the lexicon and sensibilities of most anyone alive today. Lorne’s kingdom is directly or indirectly responsible for movies and shows such as ‘Tommy Boy’ and ‘30 Rock,’ for the stardom of Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler and Chris Rock and Tina Fey, for the perception of politicians from Gerald Ford to Sarah Palin.” [WashPost]
🍎 New York Stage of Mind: In The New York Times Style Magazine, film critic A.O. Scott profiles playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner — who wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s new film remake of “West Side Story” — looking at the writer’s ties to New York. “[Kushner] is not, in any provincial, Woody Allen sense, a New York writer, obsessed with the social minutiae of a few select codes. And yet he’s undoubtedly a New York character. That isn’t code for Jewish or gay, though what the city owes its gay and Jewish citizens is beyond measure: It includes, among much else, the original ‘West Side Story,’ created by [Arthur] Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins, all of whom can be claimed by both tribes.” [NYTimes]
💔 Noble Lie? Tablet’s Armin Rosen interviews Eliyah Hawila, a Lebanese-born Muslim who faked his way into a marriage with a member of the tight-knit Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn. “Hawila claims he was acting out of love and that he fibbed out of idealism and romance,” Rosen writes. “What did he like about this woman? I asked. ‘Everything. Her personality. Just how religious she is, how she’s right on top of everything. Everything about her — she spoke Arabic as well. She knew all the food that I liked. She’s just amazing, everything about her. We understand each other more than anybody understands anybody else. We understand each other very deeply. So I lied to her.’” [Tablet]
⛹️♀️ Breaking Barriers: Fansided’s Stephanie Kaloi spotlights Shahd Abboud, the first Israeli-Arab basketball captain of a team in Israel’s Female Basketball Premiere League. “She’s had the opportunity to break down stereotypes previously held by her Israeli teammates and their families (‘They all love me,’ she says) and to see stereotypes she and her own family held be dismantled by the teammates who have come into her home. As she explained, ‘They started to realize they can look at a person as a person and not as a religion or a label.’” [Fansided]
Around the Web
🗳️ French Front: Right-wing TV personality Eric Zemmour announced his candidacy for the French presidential elections in 2022, making his campaign official after months of speculation.
👎 Poor Parallel: Former “60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan compared Dr. Anthony Fauci to Nazi physician Josef Mengele during a Fox News segment Monday evening.
🎭 Callout: Filmmaker Steven Spielberg memorialized Stephen Sondheim at the premiere of Spielberg’s “West Side Story”; Sondheim wrote the lyrics for the original 1957 Broadway production.
🚓 Big Apple: The NYPD is searching for a group of three teenage girls who accosted three separate groups of traditionally dressed Jews in Brooklyn in what is being considered a hate crime.
💰 Gift Receipt: Entrepreneur Stuart Weitzman’s eight-figure donation to the National Museum of American Jewish History will allow the museum, which recently emerged from bankruptcy, to purchase its own building, chief executive Misha Galperin announced yesterday in eJewishPhilanthropy.
🇨🇦 Northern Nod: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the reappointment of Irwin Cotler as the country’s special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism.
🕎 Candle Commemoration: Incoming German Chancellor Olaf Schlaz addressed a virtual Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony for Holocaust survivors at the Western Wall, promising to protect German Jews from antisemitism.
💱 Money Matters: Cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase purchased Unbound Security, an Israeli firm that innovates in secure cryptocurrency storage and transfers.
🤑 Dear White City: Tel Aviv has been ranked the world’s most expensive city for the first time by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
💉 Vaccination Nation: Israeli is leaning heavily on COVID-19 booster shots as its primary tool to fend off the new Omicron variant of the virus.
🌍 Climate Fail: Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry fined the Chevron Mediterranean company NIS 457,000 ($144,000) for violating its emissions permit by failing to burn gas before it was released into the atmosphere.
⛽ Done Deal: Qatar will provide Hamas with free fuel, which Hamas will sell to pay the salaries of civil servants, in a newly announced deal.
🇮🇱🇦🇪 HMU: In the wake of the Abraham Accords, Saoud Saqer bin Hamoodah, a 30-year-old Emirati engineering school graduate, has become a leader in forming youth ties between Israel and the UAE.
😔 Wrong on Iran Deal: Danny Citrinowicz, the former research head of the Israeli military, criticized the Israeli government for pushing against an Iran nuclear deal.
☢️ Nuclear No-Go: European diplomats warned that prospects for a diplomatic deal addressing Iran’s nuclear program would be seriously endangered if Iran enriches uranium to weapons-grade fuel.
👧 Welcome to the World: White House Jewish Liaison Chanan Weissman announced at last night’s congressional Hanukkah celebration that his daughter was born on Monday.
Pic of the Day
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Susan Wild (D-PA) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) joined American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) Executive Vice President Rabbi Levi Shemtov Tuesday night for the first outdoor menorah lighting on the U.S. Capitol grounds.
In attendance later in the evening at Wasserman Schultz and Zeldin’s virtual Congressional Hanukkah party: Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Reps. Manning, Lois Frankel (D-FL), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), Val Demings (D-FL), Darren Soto (D-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Chanan Weissman, Canadian MP Anthony Housefather, Shemtov, Marc Stanley, Halie Soifer, Steve Rabinowitz, Jack Moline, Naomi Steinberg, Alicia Post, Karen Barall, Marvin Feuer, Tracy Kaplowitz, Aaron Weinberg, Boris Zilberman, Matt Nosanchuk, Marcia Balonick, Jon “Bowser” Bauman, Michelle Bernstein, Michael Safra, Nancy Kaufman, Jody Rabhan, Herbert Block, Misha Galperin, Thomas Kahn, Greg Rosenbaum, Marty Rosenbaum, Gil Preuss, Julie Schonfeld, Meredith Jacobs, Reva Price, Jacob Blumenthal, Steve Gutow, Jennifer Laszlo Misrahi, Laurie Moskowitz, Ann Lewis, Marie Harf, Shelley Greenspan, Vivian Bass, Jill Zipin, Steve Siegel and Dan Pollak.
CEO of Oracle Corporation, Safra A. Catz turns 60…
Retired judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, now of counsel at Elliott Greenleaf, Bruce William Kauffman turns 87… Chairman and former CEO of Marvel Entertainment, Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter turns 79… NYC-based real estate investor, he owned the New York Post and is a noted car collector, Peter Kalikow turns 79… Executive producer of over 200 shows, David E. Salzman turns 78… Singer-songwriter, actress and producer, Bette Midler turns 76… Comedian and actor, best known for his starring role in the animated sitcom “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist,” Jonathan Katz turns 75… Director of Yashrut, Rabbi Daniel Landes turns 71… British playwright, director and scriptwriter, Stephen Poliakoff turns 69… U.S. senator (R-FL), Rick Scott turns 69… Chair of the board of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Isaac “Ike” Fisher turns 65… Judge of the U.S. District Court of Oregon, Judge Michael H. Simon turns 65… U.S. Senator (D-MI), Gary Peters turns 63… Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Cambridge, Raymond E. Goldstein turns 60… Assistant vice chancellor for communications at the University of Pittsburgh, David Seldin turns 54… CEO at My Pest Pros, Brett Lieberman turns 53… Emmy Award-winning stand-up comedian, Sarah Silverman turns 51… Rabbi of Shaarei Tefillah Congregation in Toronto, Rafi Lipner turns 48… Principal in the media and communications practice at The Raben Group, Yochi J. Dreazen turns 45… Emmy and Peabody Award-winning director and actor, Akiva Schaffer turns 44… Former chief communications officer at Oath, Natalie Ravitz turns 42… Senior national political columnist at the National Journal, Josh Kraushaar turns 40… English teacher at Jerusalem’s Keshet Talpaz public elementary school, Shira Sacks turns 32… Principal at Magen Strategies, David Milstein turns 32… Becky Weissman…