👋 Good Monday morning!
Today is a big day at Jewish Insider. Below, Gabby Deutch has just published a must-read 5,000-word in-depth profile of Gen. Miguel Correa, the two-star retired U.S. Army general who helped broker the Abraham Accords and even came up with the name for it. This is the general’s first on-the-record set of interviews. And the story is not just available here but also at a new publication we’re launching today called The Circuit.
The Circuit is a new digital publication covering the Middle East through a business and cultural lens. The Circuit, accessible at Circuit.News, is geared for doers and deal-makers — in the region and afar — who are “on the circuit.” This includes those in the U.S., the Gulf and Israel who are now getting to know one another — so expect good overlap of content with our other publications at JI and eJewishPhilanthropy. We have big plans for JI and eJP this year, and are excited to welcome The Circuit into our family of publications.
Stay tuned for the launch of The Daily Circuit, a new curated newsletter from The Circuit, coming soon. Sign up here to be notified when it goes live.
behind the name
The general who coined the Abraham Accords
Note: This story is worth reading in full. Below are a few tidbits from the article but we recommend clicking the link to read more here.
Beneath the holiest place in Judaism, a group of visitors gathered in December 2020 to celebrate Hanukkah. Guests of honor inside the dimly lit stone archway of the Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem included a who’s who of Jewish officials from the Trump administration. Together, the group lit candles, recited blessings and sang Hanukkah songs. Afterward, the rabbi of the Western Wall and Israel’s Holy Places, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, noticed a familiar face out of the corner of his eye. Rabinowitz proceeded with purpose, blowing past Trump advisors Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, to reach two-star U.S. Army Gen. Miguel Correa. The rabbi from Jerusalem and the general, a Catholic Puerto Rico native, embraced in a brotherly hug.
What’s in a name: The unlikely pair had met earlier in the year when Correa, who played a pivotal role in negotiating and bringing about the Abraham Accords, was in Jerusalem. Now the general was back to celebrate a Jewish holiday for the first time, just months after he had coined the name “Abraham Accords,” knitting together the three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
An American experiment: “My dad really drove all these cultures into our minds, and I think it helped me get where I’m at,” the press-shy general explained to The Circuit / Jewish Insider‘s Gabby Deutch at his home in Pompano Beach, Fla., in his first in-depth interview on his professional experiences and personal journey. Correa’s parents were the formative force in every career choice he made: “My parents had beat that into our heads, ‘Hey, what is going to be your contribution to this American experiment?’”
Behind the scenes: The name for the normalization agreements that are having a major economic and cultural impact in the Middle East came to Correa with hardly a moment to spare. “This is on August 13 at roughly 10 a.m., with the announcement, with the phone call [between Trump, then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Emirati leader Mohamed bin Zayed] being at I think 10:30 a.m., so there wasn’t much time — it was a last-minute decision,” Berkowitz recalled in an interview. “I thought it was excellent, that’s fabulous, that’s great,” Kushner told JI.
Read the full profile of Correa — with stops in Florida, Pakistan, Kuwait, the Alaskan wilderness and the UAE — on The Circuit for the inside story of how the gregarious Puerto Rican earned the trust of the Emiratis and went on to help broker the Abraham Accords — and name it, too.
Congress launches bipartisan Abraham Accords Caucus
At a time when Congress appears increasingly fractured along party lines and between chambers, a group of eight House and Senate lawmakers will come together this week to launch the bipartisan Abraham Accords Caucus, focused on supporting and promoting the normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod scoops.
Taking the lead: The caucus’s co-chairs will be Sens. James Lankford (R-OK), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), David Trone (D-MD), Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Brad Schneider (D-IL). Lankford described the new group as a “cheerleading squad” for the Accords in an interview with Jewish Insider late last week. Trone said he expects the caucus, which will add members in matched bipartisan pairs, to grow quickly.
On the agenda: Lankford and Trone said the group came together around a shared goal of supporting the Accords, which were signed in September 2020 between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, working to expand the agreements and promoting economic activity among the countries in the agreement.
Keeping focus: Lankford said that the group can also help keep the executive branch focused on adding more countries to the agreement, both during the Biden administration as well as those of future presidents. “I don’t want this getting lost in the State Department,” he said. “So this is a way that we can actually reach out to State and continue to push that, and continue to be able to encourage those countries… and we have relationships with them as well.”
On the clock: The caucus faced several hurdles on the path to its formation: The original plan was to launch the group around the first anniversary of the Accords last September. Lankford primarily blamed the pandemic for the delays, adding that the Biden State Department’s calibration of its policy on the Accords also took time and that Democratic colleagues told him that they wanted “know exactly where State is on this” before joining the caucus. Trone told JI, “The biggest focus has been that we really wanted to make it bipartisan and it took a little while for everybody to understand why the caucus will matter and what the caucus is trying to do… and that is a bipartisan — no politics, no party.”
As Israel’s skies reopen, some fear pandemic damage to Israel-Diaspora relations
For many Jews in the Diaspora, a teenage group trip to Israel is a rite of passage. Like a brit milah or a bar mitzvah, it is part of the life cycle of events for many young Jews and since the founding of the state, Jewish schools, youth movements and synagogues around the world have promoted short-term trips as a way to strengthen Jewish identity. Now, after two years of sporadic border closures aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus, those short-term trips have been more or less halted, prompting fears among those facilitating the groups that a generation of young Diaspora Jews will lose the opportunity to engage with Israel at a formative age, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Irreversible damage: “We call them the lost tribes of 2020 and 2021,” joked Amos Hermon, CEO of Israel Experience, one of the leading companies for educational group travel to Israel, in an interview with JI. Turning serious, Hermon said he believed that “the damage caused by the pandemic is irreversible.”
First chance: “These programs are an important part of the life cycle of Jews in the Diaspora, and they are essential for organizations and schools, as well as to parents and the wider community before a young Jew goes out into the world,” Hermon continued. “For many of the young people, it is their first and last chance to come to Israel as a group or with their class before they get to campuses and face anti-Israel, BDS, antisemitic activities.”
Infrastructure collapse: While he said it’s too early to assess the implications of the pandemic closures, Hermon is worried that even if the trips restart – Israel reopened its borders to individual foreign nationals, not groups, this week – the requisite infrastructure will have collapsed along with the country’s entire foreign tourism sector.
Next wave: Hermon told JI that those involved in arranging educational trips have already approached the government, emphasizing the need for a viable plan that will enable all group tourism to continue even if (and when) another COVID-19 wave hits. He emphasized that the reopening of the border this week is for individual tourists and not for groups. “We are now studying the new guidelines of the Ministry of Health and preparing for a situation where the rate of infection in Israel is among the highest in the world,” Hermon added. “I assume that within a few days the procedures will be clarified.”
👾 Conspiracy Conundrum: In The Washington Post, Yair Rosenberg weighs in on conspiracy theories about Jews, most recently that the Jews are trying to commit genocide via the vaccine against COVID-19 — a theory circulated by Utah tech executive David Bateman in an email that led to his resignation. “It’s tempting to write this off as the ridiculous ramblings of an Internet-poisoned tech magnate too rich to have ever been told ‘no’ by those around him. On the surface, Bateman’s ham-handed harangue certainly looks like a fringe — even funny — story. But it’s not. That’s because the libel that Jews are committing genocide has exploded in popularity across anti-Jewish discourse. It crosses ideological lines and is increasingly expressed in polite company.” [WashPost]
💸 Spotlight: The New York Times’s Jacob Bernstein spotlights Ron Perelman, looking at the series of personal and financial challenges faced by the MacAndrews & Forbes chairman and CEO. “Although what happened to Mr. Perelman is a story about losing money, it is also a parable for how the game is rigged for those at the top. Here was a very rich man who, despite having a failing business, repeatedly went to the banks for billions of dollars in loans he may never fully pay back. And got them. But among the 0.1 percenters who take advantage of endless banking tools, Mr. Perelman remains a figure of fascination: incredibly well known, difficult to define.” [NYTimes]
🇺🇸🇮🇱 Quiet Influence: The Times of Israel‘s Lazar Berman writes about the Alabama-based United States-Israel Education Association (USIEA) organization, which brings senior congressional leaders to visit Israeli settlements, and explores its influence on U.S.-Israel relations, including securing U.S. funding for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system and developing ties between Israeli and Palestinian business communities. “With its partners on Capitol Hill, USIEA is now setting its sights even higher, as it develops a strategic project that aims to position the Abraham Accords nations as an alternative to China for the US life sciences and pharmaceutical supply chain.” [TOI]
🐌 Snail’s Pace: In The New York Times, Elizabeth Williamson discusses the slow pace at which President Joe Biden’s nominees for Senate-confirmed posts are being approved, including Deborah Lipstadt, who was nominated as the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. “Yet nearly six months later, Dr. Lipstadt’s nomination remains in limbo, thwarted by Senate Republicans who have complained that she criticized some of them on Twitter…Dr. Lipstadt has a long history of using Twitter and other public forums to criticize politicians on the right and left. In 2019, she sharply criticized Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, for characterizing pro-Israel Americans as a ‘political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.’ Such statements are ‘part of the textbook accusations against Jews,’ Dr. Lipstadt told a reporter for Jewish Insider. Later the same year, after Mr. Trump rejected white supremacy in a statement after shootings in El Paso, and Dayton, Ohio, Dr. Lipstadt told Jewish Insider that his words were insufficient.” [NYTimes]
🇨🇳 Chinese Lens: For Tablet, Matti Friedman interviews Xi Xiaoqi, a popular figure in Israel known as “Chinese Itzik,” who makes flattering videos about Israel from a Chinese perspective. “Itzik is worth watching not just because he’s entertaining and interesting, but because he’s a way to understand how China would like to talk to Israelis now. Someone there is watching us carefully and learning fast…When I asked Itzik about human-rights abuses in places like Xinjiang, for example, which have been widely reported in the Western press, he replied, ‘I think the Israelis can understand China better than anyone else.’ He meant that Israel is also the target of misleading coverage from the same outlets reporting on China, and that Jews are used to being lied about.” [Tablet]
Around the Web
🏃 Keystone Race: Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro faces no Democratic opposition in his gubernatorial race, unlike the state’s Senate primary, where a crowded field of Democratic contenders is jockeying for the party’s nomination in the general election.
🇮🇷 Campus Beat: Hussein Mousavian, a Princeton University faculty member who previously served as a member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, boasted of threats made by the regime to the family of former U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook.
☢️ Positive Outlook: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Friday that progress had been made in the nuclear talks between Iran and Western powers.
⚠️ Warning: National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that Iran, which sanctioned 51 Americans for the 2020 targeted killing of Qasem Soleimani, will face “severe consequences” if it conducts attacks against U.S. nationals.
🙏 Friends in Arms: Saudi Arabia has appealed to Gulf states for help replenishing its stock of interceptor missiles for its U.S.-made Patriot air-defense system, as it awaits U.S. approval for arms sales.
📰 War of Words: Ruth Shalit Barrett is suing The Atlantic for retracting an article she wrote in 2020 and publicly doubting her credibility after the Washington Post found inaccuracies in her reporting.
🖊️ Mystery Man: In an interview with The Guardian, Harlan Coben reflects on his family life, how he copes with imposter syndrome and his relationship with Judaism.
⚖️ In the Courts: David Schottenstein will plead guilty to insider trading, in a case that alleges the serial entrepreneur gleaned stock tips from relatives.
📗 Book Shelf: The Washington Post spotlights two new books, James McAuley’s The House of Fragile Things: Jewish Art Collectors and the Fall of France and Pauline Baer de Perignon’s The Vanished Collection, which tell the true stories of Jewish art connoisseurs seeking to find a their place in postwar France.
📚 Trending Up: The Library of Israel doubled the number of Arabic speakers to its website last year, as it ramped up its collection of Arabic texts and engaged in targeted outreach to the Arab world.
👛 Tight Wallets: Israel will not provide financial aid to businesses amid the country’s fifth wave of the coronavirus.
🧒 Testing Time: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said yesterday that every child in Israel will receive three COVID-19 testing kits, following shortages in shops and complaints about high prices.
🚑 Deadly Demonstrations: A 22-year-old Israeli citizen was killed during protests in Kazakhstan on Saturday, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which issued a travel advisory against visiting the Central Asian country last week.
🕯️ Remembering: Actor Bob Saget, whose Danny Tanner character on “Full House” provided sage fatherly advice to the millennial generation, died at 65. Robert Birnbaum, the former president of the New York Stock Exchange who was praised for his response to the 1987 stock market crash, died at 94. Oscar-winning lyricist Marilyn Bergman, who with her husband wrote hits such as “The Way We Were” and “The Windmills of Your Mind,” died at 93. Musician Judith Davidoff, who specialized in instruments of the Renaissance and Baroque eras, died at 94. Michael Lang, the co-founder and organizer of the original Woodstock festival, died at 77. Harry Colomby, who managed the careers of Thelonious Monk and Michael Keaton, died at 92. Aura Herzog, mother of Israeli President Isaac Herzog and wife of the late former President Chaim Herzog, died at 97.
📖 Flashback: “CBS Sunday Morning” replayed a 2013 interview Lesley Stahl did with actor and film director Sidney Poitier, who died this weekend at 94, in which he recounted how an elderly Jewish waiter taught him to read.
Pic of the Day
Former Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs — whose paternal grandfather was Jewish — appears with his Star of David bicep tattoo visible as he is introduced to the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium yesterday. The Ravens lost in a dramatic overtime game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, spoiling their remaining chances at a playoff berth.
Majority owner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, Joe Lacob turns 66…
Founder of the Center for Research on Institutions and Social Policy, he was a former speechwriter for Robert F. Kennedy, Adam Walinsky turns 85… Conservative writer, David Joel Horowitz turns 83… Executive editor of Denver’s Intermountain Jewish News, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, Ph.D. turns 76… Professor at Brandeis University, former longtime president of CJP Boston, Barry Shrage turns 75… Former president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Baron David Edmond Neuberger turns 74… Singer-songwriter and co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Steely Dan, Donald Fagen turns 74… World-renowned cellist, Mischa Maisky turns 74… U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) turns 72… Longtime book editor, Sydny Weinberg Miner turns 71… Retired executive director at Beta Alpha Psi, Hadassah Baum turns 71… Founder and CEO at Quantifiable Media, Rose Kemps turns 71…
Fellow for religious freedom at the Freedom Forum Institute, Richard Thomas Foltin turns 70… Professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, Jonathan D. Sarna turns 67… Member of the Knesset for the United Torah Judaism party, Uri Maklev turns 65… U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) turns 63… Member of the UK’s House of Lords and advisor to the government on antisemitism, Baron John Mann turns 62… Actor and author, Evan Handler turns 61… Vice chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples, Beth Ellen Wolff turns 60… Author and journalist, Tod Goldberg turns 51… Member of the Knesset for Likud, Galit Distel-Atbaryan turns 51… Caryn Beth Lazaroff Gold turns 44… Founder of Affinity Partners, Jared Kushner turns 41… Advisor and speechwriting director for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Adam David Weissmann turns 39… Spokesperson on terrorism and financial intelligence at the U.S. Treasury, Morgan Aubrey Finkelstein turns 31… Andrew Tobin… Debbie Seiden…