👋 Good Wednesday morning!
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with a group of Democratic House members on Tuesday afternoon in Jerusalem, a day after he met with a delegation of Republican legislators. Both groups are in the country with the AIPAC-affiliated American Israel Education Foundation while the House is in recess this week.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who led the delegation of 14 Democrats and their family members, congratulated Bennett on his work to form the government last spring following several years of interim leadership and successive elections, noting that what Bennett did in forming a broad coalition government was “courageous.” Bennett responded that his government was created in part to fight political polarization, a senior Israeli official told Jewish Insider.
As with his meeting with the Republican delegation on Monday, Bennett emphasized concerns over the “sunset clause” provisions in the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which will expire in less than three years. Despite disagreements between the Israeli and U.S. governments over negotiations with Iran, the senior official said that Bennett stressed his warm relationships with President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
During the approximately 45-minute meeting, the delegation asked about the government’s policies regarding the Palestinians. “If it comes to making the lives of Palestinians better, I’m all in, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of security,” Bennett told the group, noting the government’s efforts to increase the number of work permits given to Palestinians and the efforts to boost representation in the high-tech sector, according to the official.
“It was a really friendly, warm atmosphere,” the official said.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who is traveling as part of the delegation, told Jewish Insider via email from Jerusalem, “The governing coalition in Israel is a political miracle that brings together the left and the right, Jews and Arabs as well as secular and religious parties who appear committed to making life better for both Israelis and Palestinians. The Middle East is a tough region with seemingly intractable challenges, but I left our meetings with the Israeli government hopeful and cautiously optimistic about the future.”
Jeffries, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, noted the group’s discussion on Iran, adding, “We discussed concerns related to the emerging nuclear deal, but I have not been presented with any proposed agreement and will therefore reserve judgment.”
The Democratic delegation also met yesterday with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. The group later joined the Republican legislators on a joint visit to Yad Vashem.
at the races
Maccabee Task Force director David Brog puts his chips on congressional run
After 16 years in pro-Israel activism as the executive director of Christians United for Israel and, since 2015, the campus antisemitism-focused nonprofit Maccabee Task Force, David Brog has his eyes set on Capitol Hill, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The Republican and former chief of staff to the late Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) threw his hat in the ring last week as a congressional candidate in Nevada’s newly redrawn 1st Congressional District, which encompasses the Las Vegas area.
Red alert: Brog told JI in an hour-long interview last week that his congressional bid was prompted by trends he observed as the head of the Maccabee Task Force — a job he plans to continue during the campaign. The bulk of the funding for the Maccabee Task Force has come from the late Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam. “My sense of the threats [to the country] and the priority shifted really over the summer of 2020,” he explained. “I was really shocked at the speed with which some of the crazy ideas from the campuses are now finding expression on the streets of our cities and at the base of one of our two political parties… I started to feel that the greatest threat to our country and our civilization is right here at home.”
Trendy: Brog has associated himself with the National Conservatism movement, a growing element of the conservative movement that he described as favoring a more protectionist trade policy and decreased U.S. military engagement abroad alongside conservative social values. Other politicians associated with the movement include Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance. “My big belief is that the Republican Party needs to be the party of the working class and that means it’s a party that really takes the issues of America’s working class seriously and seeks to defend the working class,” he said.
Pinnacle: Citing his national conservative ethos, Brog — a cousin of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak — described the U.S.-Israel relationship as the “ultimate example” of how he believes U.S. foreign policy should operate, because it has never asked for U.S. troops to defend it and shares security interests with the U.S.
No good option: Brog, an opponent of the 2015 nuclear deal, said that the U.S. should pressure the Iranian regime with maximum sanctions, with the ultimate goal of prompting an uprising against the government. “We have a choice — either Iran will be on a path toward enrichment and a nuclear weapon with full economic benefits, or they’ll be on a path toward weapons and enrichment under a severe sanctions regime that is putting the regime under severe pressure and creating an opportunity for perhaps Iranians to liberate themselves from the regime,” he explained. “I wish there was option C, which is how through negotiations, through economic policy, you remove the opportunity that Iran can have a weapon. But that doesn’t seem to be an option.”
Long shot: Amy Tarkanian, the former chair of the Nevada Republican Party and a GOP strategist, told JI that the state’s new congressional new map provides “a glimmer of hope for the GOP” in the 1st District, compared to the “midnight blue” current district, but added that the strong union presence among the thousands of hospitality workers in the district will be a major obstacle for Republicans to overcome.
Read the full interview here.
In other GOP primary news: Jennifer Strahan, a Republican who is challenging Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District primary, served gazpacho at a fundraiser on Tuesday evening at Coosa Country Club in Rome. (Greene is a new member of the club.) The soup course was a not-so-subtle dig at a recent viral malapropism in which Greene, during an interview earlier this month, ranted against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) “gazpacho police.” According to a spokesperson for Strahan’s campaign, the event’s host committee made the decision to serve gazpacho, which was cooked up by a chef at the club and “followed a recipe from Spain.” Greene’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
J Street endorses Casten over Newman in Illinois Democratic primary
In a closely watched Chicago-area primary between two incumbent House Democrats, liberal pro-Israel group J Street is throwing its weight behind Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL), J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch on Tuesday. Casten is participating in a J Street delegation of House members visiting Israel this week.
Change of heart: J Street had previously endorsed both Casten and his opponent, Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL), prior to a redistricting process that changed the borders of the legislators’ districts. The organization stood by Newman in September when she was one of just eight Democrats to vote against a $1 billion supplemental funding package for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system — legislation that J Street supported. The group held a fundraiser for Newman days after the vote. At the time, Illinois’ new maps had not yet been approved.
New factors: “After redistricting placed them both in a race for Illinois’ 6th District,” Logan Bayroff, J Street’s spokesman, told JI on Tuesday, “we reviewed the race based on a number of factors and ultimately have made the decision this month to endorse Rep. Casten alone in this new head-to-head matchup.” Casten also earned the endorsement last month of the pro-Israel political action committee Democratic Majority for Israel.
Under investigation: Newman is currently embroiled in a congressional ethics investigation relating to her alleged bribery of Palestinian-American professor Iymen Chehade, who now serves as a highly paid advisor to her reelection campaign. A congressional ethics watchdog report revealed that Chehade had asked Newman to agree to support a range of anti-Israel policies, as well as to hire him to her congressional staff, in exchange for his agreement not to challenge her in the 2020 Democratic primary. Newman did not sign the proposed agreement on Israel policy, but responded to Chehade, “most of [the proposal] looks good.”
Israel-Bahrain cooperation on display in Munich
Cooperation between Bahrain and Israel stepped up a level this weekend with the prominent participation of both countries in the Munich Security Conference, Ahdeya Ahmed, former president of the Bahraini Journalists Association, writes in an op-ed for The Circuit.
Mutual interests: Undersecretary for Political Affairs of the Foreign Ministry Dr. Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Khalifa represented Bahrain in the session titled “Abrahamic Agreements and Peace Options,” and shed light on a strong alliance between two countries in the Middle East that have common interests aimed at creating a more secure region in the face of the rise of extremism and terrorism that has threatened both countries and has destabilized others nations of the Middle East.
Quotable: “If this security cooperation between Bahrain and Israel would mean providing more stability and security, so be it,” Abdullah said. “If it would mean saving the lives of innocent civilians, so be it. That is why during a number of visits of the head of the Mossad to Bahrain, it was publicly announced in the Bahrain News Agency. Probably, the first time it was announced was in September 2020 and in May 2021 that, yes, the head of the Mossad was received by his counterpart in Bahrain. So we do believe that security cooperation, intelligence cooperation is part of our ongoing partnership between Bahrain and Israel.”
down to business
Cooperman’s credo: capitalism with a heart
In a virtual conversation last week with brothers of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, investor Leon Cooperman outlined a philosophy that could be described as “work hard, give hard,” reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales. The chairman and CEO of Omega Advisors, who joined the Jewish fraternity as an undergraduate at Hunter College before going on to manage a hedge fund for 25 years, has a net worth of $2.5 billion, according to Forbes.
Overview: Cooperman encouraged his audience, should they grow wealthy, to donate generously. According to the most recent available tax forms, the Leon & Toby Cooperman Foundation gave $22 million in charity in 2019 and the beginning of 2020, including to a range of Jewish organizations. A recent article in The Washington Post, headlined “The Moral Calculations of a Billionaire,” depicted both Cooperman’s success — it reports that he made $700 million in 2021 — and his intention to give away almost all of his wealth. The article included Cooperman’s relatively modest lifestyle: He hunts for specials at Costco and drives a Hyundai, a detail he also mentioned in the AEPi talk.
‘Share your success’: “When you have achieved financial security, share your success with others less fortunate than yourself,” he said on the call. “In the Biblical sense, we are our brothers’ keeper, and we have a moral obligation to help others in need.” Following the Post article, he said, he’s gotten 300 requests for donations. “When you read these letters — and I read them all — the amount of suffering out there is legendary.”
🚨 Alarm Bells: The Associated Press’ Josef Federman looks at the impending nuclear deal with Iran and what it means for Israel. “After months of negotiations in Vienna, the various sides have indicated a new deal is close, perhaps in the coming days. But instead of the ‘longer, stronger’ agreement originally promised by the U.S., the deal is expected to do little more than reinstate the original pact, whose key restrictions on Iranian nuclear activity expire in a few years. This modest accomplishment appears to be the best the Biden administration can hope for at a time when it is restrained by Congress at home, and overwhelmed abroad with the Ukraine crisis and longer-term challenges such as China and climate change. But it is setting off alarm bells in Israel, whose leaders have grown increasingly vocal in their condemnations of a deal they fear will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.” [AP]
🤝🏼 Abraham’s Potential: In Foreign Affairs, Michael Singh, the Lane-Swig Senior Fellow and managing director at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior director at the National Security Council, explores the scope of the Abraham Accords for the region and for the U.S., and what the agreements can achieve if additional countries join. “The signatories are all U.S. partners, and they could together offer something that Washington has long wanted: a bloc of Middle Eastern countries that can safeguard U.S. interests, allowing the United States to step back from the region. But the reality is more complicated. Washington will find that working through partners diminishes its ability to influence the outcome of key regional conflicts, including in Libya, in Yemen, and with Iran — all places where the United States and its allies do not see eye to eye… But it is a mistake to think about the Abraham Accords purely, or even mostly, as an opportunity or a risk for Washington. They have much bigger implications for the Middle East itself. The agreement will encourage deeper economic integration in a region of the world that has seen little of that. It will draw investors from outside the Middle East who now see better opportunities, leading to greater growth in the region overall… And the deal will open the door to a level of political and security cooperation between Israel and Arab states previously deemed unthinkable, potentially giving rise to a coalition that can help quell regional disputes or deter states such as Iran without the support of outside intervention.” [ForeignAffairs]
🔥 Better Together: In Defense One, Bradley Bowman, Joe Truzman and Ryan Brobst call for increased joint action by the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE against Iran and its proxies. “Recognizing that Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis have the same benefactor and share many of the same goals, methods, and weapons is an essential prerequisite for developing a more cooperative and effective regional response. That response should include the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and UAE sharing technical information on Iranian weapons, especially the rockets, missiles, and drones that all three proxies operate. This could include sharing intelligence about the smuggling routes Tehran uses to deliver weapons to proxies and the financial vehicles Iran uses to fund its proxies. Israel and Gulf Arab states, along with U.S. Central Command, should also build on recent progress related to combined military exercises… Iran would rather its adversaries remain divided and distracted, attempting to respond unilaterally and without holding Tehran accountable for the actions of its proxies.” [DefenseOne]
Around the Web
💸 Spending Frenzy: Pennsylvania Senate candidates David McCormick and Dr. Mehmet Oz have collectively spent more than $30 million on advertising ahead of the Republican primary on May 17, with the former Bridgewater CEO leading the celebrity doctor in a recent internal poll, garnering 24% of the vote to Oz’s 18%.
🛏️ Love Letter: In a New York Times op-doc about her father, a rabbi confined to a care facility following a debilitating stroke and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, filmmaker Kitra Cahana, using a compilation of Zoom interviews and video, spotlights the isolation and lessons learned by her father over the last two years.
🥬 Alt-Neu Cuisine: Travel writer Joe Baur explores the vegetarian history of Ashkenazi Jewish cooking and spotlights the chefs who are helping the cuisine make a comeback.
🖼️ Across the Pond: An art gallery director at the University of Manchester was asked to leave his position after an uproar over an exhibition that denounced Israeli actions in Gaza during last May’s conflict.
🚓 City Crime: A makeshift memorial for a Jewish teenager killed in a hit-and-run accident in Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay neighborhood last month was vandalized with a swastika.
🇮🇷 Overseas Shipment: Israel accused Iran of plotting to arm Venezuela with drones equipped with precision-guided missiles.
🛢️ Power Purchase: Israeli firm NewMed Energy, formerly Delek Drilling, is seeking to break into the Moroccan market.
🪖 Fatal Shot: Israeli troops killed a 14-year-old Palestinian teenager in the West Bank, whom IDF officials claimed was hurling molotov cocktails at passing drivers.
👨🏫 Language Lessons: Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are increasingly seeking out Hebrew classes in the enclave following a new Israeli offer of work permits, Reuters correspondent Nidal al-Mughrabi reports.
💰 Money Matters: The Bank of Israel will not be aggressive in raising interest rates as inflation persists in the country’s economy.
🤝 Growing partnership: American Private equity company Apollo Global Management and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Company announced that they are expanding their global partnership to support Apollo’s Capital Solutions business to originate transactions across asset classes.
🧒 Building Up: Danish toy production company Lego is bringing stores to Israel, with the first set to open in Tel Aviv by the summer.
➡️ Transition: Meredith Weisel was named the new director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington, D.C., office.
🕯️ Remembering: Chess player Arthur Feuerstein, who returned to the game even after a near-fatal brain injury, died at 86.
Pic of the Day
Democratic New York Reps. Ritchie Torres (left), Hakeem Jeffries (center) and Adriano Espaillat (right) pose in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem Monday.
“Brooklyn, Uptown and the Boogie Down standing on Holy ground,” Jeffries captioned the photo on Instagram.
Political consultant and pollster, he is the founder of Luntz Global, LLC, Frank Luntz turns 60…
Senior counsel in the Baltimore office of DLA Piper, former president of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Shale D. Stiller turns 87… Former New York City Comptroller, Harrison J. Goldin turns 86… EVP emeritus of the Orthodox Union and editor-in-chief of the Koren Talmud Bavli, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb turns 82… Bethesda, Md., resident, Lois Copeland turns 78… Philosopher, novelist and public intellectual, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein turns 72… Madison, Wis., resident, Mark Jacobs turns 71… Chairman of Agudath Israel of America and CEO of the sportswear line OuterStuff, Sol Werdiger turns 71… Billionaire investor Alexander Mashkevitch turns 68… 25-year veteran of USAID’s Foreign Service, she was recently the mission director for USAID in the West Bank and Gaza, Monica Stein-Olson turns 65… Strategic communications consultant, Joe Berkofsky turns 62… Founder and CEO of Dell Technologies, Michael Dell turns 57… Best-selling author of young adult novels, Nova Ren Suma turns 47… Actor, comedian and singer, Josh Gad turns 41… CEO of film production firm Benaroya Pictures, Michael Benaroya turns 41… Financial consultant and organizer for non-profit organizations, Johnathan Morpurgo turns 37… Chief operating officer and director of research at The Lawfare Project, Benjamin Ryberg turns 37… Director of press at USAID, Rebecca Chalif turns 36… White House reporter for Bloomberg, Jennifer Epstein turns 36… Senior front-end web engineer at Business Insider, Reuben A. Ingber turns 34… Program officer for U.S. Jewish grantmaking in the DC office of Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Mary Ann Weiss turns 33… Political reporter for the Texas Tribune in Austin, Patrick Svitek turns 30… Managing director at London-based Bidversity, Gidon Feen turns 27…