👋 Good Tuesday morning!
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is traveling to Israel today alongside Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Bill Keating (D-MA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Andy Kim (D-NJ).
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrived in Manama last night for the first-ever official visit of an Israeli premier to Bahrain. Today, he was received by an honor guard at the palace of Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa and is will meet later this month with King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. A Bahraini military band performed Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” as Bennett arrived at the palace.
Bennett met with Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani; Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani; and Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed.
The premier and the ministers discussed deepening cooperation in innovation, the economy and technology, as well as ways to utilize the geographical advantages of their countries for the movement of goods between Asia and Europe. In addition, they discussed opportunities for Jewish and Muslim economic entrepreneurs and business owners.
“I want to thank my friends for such a generous and warm welcome,” Bennett said. “I come here on the first official visit of an Israeli prime minister in Bahrain, but it’s not only symbolic. My goal during this visit is to inject content into the Abraham Accords in trade, in people-to-people connections, and in all dimensions, and I’m very much looking forward to this day.”
“You are welcome here in Bahrain,” said Foreign Minister Al Zayani. “We were so delighted and we look forward [to] fruitful discussions and great outcomes for the meetings scheduled today with his Majesty and his Royal Highness. You are among friends; you are welcome.”
This morning, Bennett met with Israeli Ambassador to Bahrain Eitan Naeh, Jewish community president Ebrahim Daoud Nonoo, Jewish community member and former Bahraini Ambassador to the U.S. Houda Nonoo and other Jewish community leaders. Bennett gave them a shofar for the synagogue in Manama.
“I’m very delighted to be here in Bahrain, and I could think of no better way to kick off this visit than seeing my family here in Bahrain,” the prime minister said. “All of you are indeed family. I come from Israel with goodwill, with warm friendship between the two peoples, and I’m sure you can be a remarkable bridge between Bahrain and Israel. I’m looking forward to a wonderful day to strengthen the Abraham Accords, to strengthen the relationship between the nations.”
Bennett later met with U.S. Fifth Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Brad Cooper and praised the cooperation between the IDF and the U.S. Armed Forces, noting that the Fifth Fleet is a “significant element in maintaining regional stability in the face of various security threats and that he expects that the joint work between the countries in the region and the strong U.S. ally will continue to develop,” according to a statement from his office.
A senior official delegation from Turkey will arrive in Israel this week as part of preparations for the planned visit of President Isaac Herzog to Ankara, and with the aim of discussing relations between the two countries, which have been tense over the past decade.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi drew praise from Israeli commentators when, after making his formal entrance into the Egypt Petroleum Show in Cairo, he intentionally crossed to the other side of the room in order to greet Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar. Questioned during the conference about reports that Israeli natural gas would reach Lebanon, Elharrar said, “we are exporting to Egypt and Jordan, and if that gas would reach Lebanon, so be it.”
From semper fi to union steward, Gil Villegas eyes Capitol Hill
Less than two months into an election year, Chicago is living up to its reputation for hard-nosed politics. In one race, two Democratic incumbent members of Congress are locked in a heated battle filled with allegations of corruption. In another, more than a dozen candidates are running to replace Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), who is retiring after 30 years in Congress, By contrast, the Democratic primary in Illinois’ newly drawn 3rd Congressional District seems downright tame — just two serious contenders who represent different ideological segments of the party, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Eyes elsewhere: The primary is not until June, and given the more hectic happenings in nearby races, Gilbert Villegas and Delia Ramirez have not attracted much attention beyond this district that is a hub of the city’s Latino community. Villegas, a longtime union organizer, is running a more moderate campaign, emphasizing public safety. He has been endorsed by fellow Marine Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and VoteVets, a progressive veterans organization. Ramirez, a state representative, recently won the backing of Emily’s List, the Chicago chapter of the Sunrise Movement and Rep. Lauren Underwood, an Illinois Democrat who represents the northern and western suburbs of Chicago.
Still serving: “Right out of high school, I went to the Marines. I actually turned 18 in boot camp,” Villegas, a Chicago alderman, told JIin a recent Zoom interview. “I’ve always had a willingness to serve.” The Capitol riots on Jan. 6 put that ethos to the test. “What I saw was America’s democracy under attack, and realizing how fragile our democracy is,” said Villegas. “I took the oath as a Marine to defend this country, against all enemies foreign and domestic. And that oath has no expiration date.”
Bona fides: In his conversation with JI, Villegas pledged to be a supporter of Israel if elected to Congress, and said he would have supported legislation that passed the House in September authorizing supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system. Villegas has been endorsed by Democratic Majority for Israel and CityPAC, a Chicago pro-Israel political group.
Making sense: “I would have voted to support that appropriation just because of the fact that it just makes so much sense to make sure that we’re supporting our allies in the region,” explained Villegas. “The fact that this is becoming political gives me pause. Because when you have an ally, you have to support and work with that ally. You cannot attack it [and be] half-hearted. You have to be all in and support the only democracy in the region.”
Keep it local: “Seemingly, [Ramirez is] going to be running a campaign that’s probably to the left of Alderman Villegas,” said Frank Calabrese, a Chicago political consultant who works with Villegas in his city council work but is not involved in his congressional campaign. “But she’s not really engaged in the type of rhetoric that kind of is identified with the other members of the Squad, because she just doesn’t really talk about national foreign policy issues.”
AOC heckled by pro-Palestinian demonstrators at two Austin events
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was heckled by pro-Palestinian demonstrators at two separate events in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, while she was in the area to rally support for progressive congressional candidates Greg Casar and Jessica Cisneros, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Media: Interrupted by a pro-Palestinian heckler at an Austin Democratic Socialists of America event promoting the Green New Deal, Ocasio-Cortez claimed that supporters of Palestinians are silenced and ignored by the media. “With media, with all this stuff, Palestine is basically a banned word. It’s censored. We don’t talk about it. No one knows about it,” she said. “Thank you for bringing it up, honestly, because we shouldn’t have to tiptoe around these things. We should be able to talk about it. And we shouldn’t allow people’s humanity to be censored.”
Pushback: In a video taken at the DSA event, Ocasio-Cortez appeared to reject the charges of antisemitism that have been leveled at the House’s most outspoken critics of Israel. “Believing in the basic human dignity and the ability for a person to not be jailed or beaten for who they are, it does not mean that you are bigoted against any other community,” she said. “And we gotta call that for what it is.”
Parallels: She compared the situation of Palestinians to undocumented immigrants detained on the U.S.’s Southern border, saying, “I don’t believe that a child should be in a cage on our border and I don’t believe a child should be in a cage in the West Bank.” Ocasio-Cortez’s office did not respond when asked on Monday to provide examples of children being imprisoned in cages in the West Bank.
Constituents: The New York representative also argued that Palestinian advocacy must “reflect the community’s understanding and building of the issue.” She continued, “If you want to make that reality happen, it’s not going to happen on the internet, y’all… We need to educate people on what’s going on because a lot of us didn’t grow up in households where the issue is discussed… Let’s knock [on] the doors and make it work and raise the consciousness so that we can take those votes not against the will of our community but with the will of our community.”
empire state of mind
Suraj Patel hopes third time’s a charm in NY-12 House Democratic primary
Suraj Patel, an attorney and former Obama administration staffer, said on Monday that he is seeking a rematch with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) in the crowded Democratic primary for New York’s redrawn 12th Congressional District. “I’m incredibly excited,” Patel said in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “This is a new decade, it’s a new district and we’ve got new challenges. We have a generational problem in the Democratic Party, and, I think, coming out of COVID after two years, people are hungry for leaders who proactively develop 21st-century solutions to 21st-century problems.”
Familiar face: The announcement marks Patel’s third challenge against Maloney, who is competing for a 16th term in the June 28 primary, since 2018. Last cycle, Patel came within just four points of claiming victory over the veteran lawmaker. He performed particularly well in left-leaning enclaves of Brooklyn and Queens, which now represent a smaller share of the district after a new redistricting plan was signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this month.
‘Pragmatic progressive’: Patel, who attacked the new map in a campaign ad released on Monday, expressed confidence that his message would resonate with voters across the district. The 38-year-old Democrat, who works as an adjunct professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, cast himself as a “pragmatic progressive” who is “pro-growth, pro-science and pro-democracy.”
Eye on Israel: Patel said he has long been supportive of the U.S.-Israel relationship, pointing to a letter he signed in 2003, as a student at Stanford University, disavowing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. “I think that there is nothing not progressive about supporting one of our closest allies and one of the only liberal democracies in the Middle East,” he said. “I’m not going to back away from that positioning in this race either.”
‘Next generation’: Patel said he anticipated that Jewish voters in the district would be energized by his candidacy. “There’s a real thirst for people to find next-generation candidates who are also supportive of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” he told JI. “I think that there’s an understanding in this district, and a fear, that bipartisan support for that relationship may begin to dwindle if we don’t have the next generation of Democrats, at least some, being on the side of that relationship.”
changing of the guard
After 50 years of leadership, Malcolm Hoenlein ready to hand over the reins
Malcolm Hoenlein, whose tenure in the organized Jewish community has spanned the effort to free Soviet Jews, two intifadas, the debate over the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and a spike in domestic antisemitism, told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash on Monday in Jerusalem that he is ready to hand over the reins of leadership to the next generation of Jewish leaders, while at the same time remaining available whenever needed.
Still on hand: “After 50 years of serving the Jewish community, I have full confidence in the next generation,” said Hoenlein, who is currently executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, working alongside CEO William Daroff. “William and I are working on this transition in a model way,” Hoenlein told JI, adding, “I am already working on other projects, but I will also be on hand to provide assistance as needed.”
Leadership trip: Hoenlein and Daroff are currently in Israel ahead of the umbrella group’s first in-person National Leadership Mission since the pandemic, set to take place Feb. 20-24. The 50-person delegation, which includes top leaders from the Conference’s 50-member organizations and its National Leadership Council, will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides.
Smooth transition: “Working with Malcolm has been an amazing experience,” Daroff told JI. “I’ve known him since 1996 and worked closely with him when I was at The [Jewish] Federations [of North America]. Obviously, over the past two years, he has become an amazing mentor and someone who is committed to ensuring that the transition of leadership within the Conference is smooth and steady.” Daroff called the changeover process “a model for the American Jewish world and leadership.”
Decades of experience: “Someone once told me that there are two laws of American Jewish leadership – despise your predecessor and despise your successor,” Daroff quipped. “But we are forging a new direction where that is absolutely not the case, and to discard and dismiss and not learn from Malcolm’s decades of experience would frankly be malpractice for the conference and the American Jewish community.”
📚 Maus’ Meaning: For Vulture, Abraham Riesman meets with Maus author Art Spiegelman, weeks after the decision by a Tennessee school board to ban from its curriculum the graphic novel — which tells the story of his father, Vladek’s, survival of the Holocaust. “As Spiegelman sees it, the real reason for the board’s decision may be that the narrative of Maus offers no catharsis, let alone comfort, to readers. There are no saviors. No one is redeemed. The characters — Spiegelman’s family — remain the imperfect people they were to begin with. ‘It’s a very not-Christian book,’ Spiegelman says. ‘Vladek didn’t become better as a result of his suffering. He just got to suffer. They want to teach the Holocaust. They just want a friendlier Holocaust to teach.’” [Vulture]
👨 Man of Faith: McClatchy’s Francesca Chambers looks at how Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff is settling in a year into the Biden-Harris administration — and how his standing as the first Jewish spouse of a vice president differentiates him from his predecessors. “The hostage crisis at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, last month marked something of a shift for Emhoff, who is the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president and has acted as emissary to the Jewish community for the White House… Several days earlier, Emhoff helped assemble prepackaged bags of produce, toiletries and dry goods alongside AmeriCorps volunteers at a Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles food pantry. Nancy Volpert, director of public policy & strategic initiatives at the Jewish community group, said the Colleyville crisis gave added meaning to her interaction with Emhoff and higher importance to his Jewish heritage. ‘It’s a pretty huge barrier to have broken,’ Volpert said. ‘The vice president cracked a huge glass ceiling, which as someone who’s a Californian who has watched her and been represented by her, that’s incredibly exciting. But they both made cracks in ceilings that I don’t think all of us were sure could happen.’” [McClatchy]
🇸🇦 Evolving Region: In Mosaic Magazine, Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Rich Goldberg calls on the Biden administration to work with a modernizing Saudi Arabia on common interest areas and to provide incentives for engagement with Israel. “It’s not too late for Biden to engage… There will be opponents to such an approach within the administration and in Congress. But a Saudi Arabia that commits to rooting out Islamic extremists and normalizing relations with Israel could transform the Middle East for generations. A Saudi Arabia that sides with the United States against China’s increasing presence in the Middle East could be increasingly critical to our national-security strategy. An economically integrated and militarily aligned Arab-Israeli Middle East could credibly allow the United States to draw down its military footprint in the region over time, which is the current administration’s own stated objective.” [MosaicMagazine]
Around the Web
💰 Chipper: Intel is close to sealing a deal to buy Israeli chip company Tower Semiconductor Ltd. for nearly $6 billion, The Wall Street Journal reports.
🚓 Attempted Assassination: A journalist and community activist in Louisville, Ky., has been charged with the attempted murder of mayoral candidate Craig Greenberg.
📺 On Air: Whoopi Goldberg returned to “The View” after a two-week suspension over comments about the Holocaust during a show taping earlier this month.
🎓 Campus Beat: The University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees is renaming one of its academic buildings, which was named after former Gov. David Bibb Graves — a member of the Ku Klux Klan — to honor the school’s first Black student.
🇫🇷 French Foes: Yannick Jadot, a presidential candidate in France, accused his far-right rival Eric Zemmour of being an “alibi” for antisemites.
😠 Island Ire: A newly opened Holocaust museum in a remote town in Indonesia is facing calls for closure by Muslim clerics and politicians who say the exhibition distracts from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
✂️ Friendly Tip: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) advised Israel to cut red tape in non-tech sectors so that the country can keep pace with its tech industry’s productivity.
🚚 Mask Down: A group of Israeli demonstrators mimicked Canadian truckers and formed their own “freedom convoy,” which they drove along the country’s main highway, to protest Israel’s COVID-19 precautions.
☢️ Vienna Horizons: Iran said that negotiations for a prisoner swap are proceeding in parallel to talks in Vienna concerning the country’s nuclear program.
🤝 Tense Trip: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to the United Arab Emirates on Monday, where he met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan amid a thawing in relations between the two countries.
💼 Transition: Shira Efron has been named director of research at the Israel Policy Forum.
🕯️ Remembering: Rabbi Simcha Krauss, a pulpit rabbi in New York who fought for women’s rights, died at 84. Dr. Sigal Barsade, who pioneered research into workplace cultures, died at 56.
Pic of the Day
Matthew J. Plaskin is sworn in as New Jersey acting attorney general using a copy of the Tanach.
Australian racewalker, she ran in the women’s 20-kilometer walk at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Jemima Montag turns 24…
Professor emeritus of American Jewish history at Columbia University, Arthur A. Goren turns 96… British actress, Claire Bloom turns 91… Professor emeritus of Jewish studies at Arizona State University and a scholar of Jewish philosophy, Norbert M. Samuelson turns 86… Professor of cognitive science at Indiana University and a Pulitzer Prize winner, Douglas Hofstadter turns 77… Former Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives, Elliott Naishtat turns 77… Cartoonist and teacher at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and a long-time contributing artist for The New Yorker, Art Spiegelman (born Itzhak Avraham ben Zeev) turns 74… Founder of 11 companies and pioneer of Israel’s tech industry, Zohar Zisapel turns 73… Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, Melissa Manchester turns 71… Host of the radio program “Jewish Moments in the Morning” since 1983, Nachum Segal turns 59… Principal at Catalyzing Philanthropy, Karen Paul turns 59… Senior advisor at CARE, the global poverty-fighting organization, Beth Solomon turns 56… Founder of Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall turns 53… Actress, writer, producer, and comedian, she won two Primetime Emmy Awards for playing Susie Myerson in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Alexandrea Borstein turns 49… Director of business development at Treetop Companies, Eric Distenfeld turns 42… White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology, Anne Neuberger… Director of education at the Orthodox Union’s NCSY and host of “the18Forty” podcast, David Bashevkin turns 37… Deputy executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Alex Siegel turns 36… Offensive lineman for three NFL teams, he is a co-founder of Dallas-based Boxer Dynamics, Ben Gottschalk turns 30… Beauty pageant titleholder who represented Israel at the Miss Universe pageant in 2016, Yam Kaspers Anshel turns 24… Yogi Sanders… Partner at Dentons, Peter Feldman…