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Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will receive a classified briefing at 10 a.m. on the status of nuclear talks with Iran.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) was the only Democrat to vote against the House’s stopgap funding bill last night. He previously told Jewish Insider he would not vote for another continuing resolution if it did not include supplemental Iron Dome funding.
A series of Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who survived the synagogue attack in Colleyville, Texas, last month, testified before the House Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday, calling both for more federal money for synagogue security and an easier process to apply for that aid.
Calls to double funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program from $180 million to $360 million have grown louder since the Colleyville attack. At the hearing, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) said “there’s still more we can do… in closing the $200 million funding shortfall.”
Cytron-Walker said, “Right now, there are far too many houses of worship that… are counting on the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to put them into place and help them feel more secure in their spiritual home… Right now, there are far too many houses of worship who won’t get the support they need.”
At one point, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) said, “Scripture says that a nation that stands against Israel stands against itself. That very simple truth must permeate homeland security policy.” He also asked the Jewish leaders to confirm “that the Jewish community stands solidly with law enforcement professionals” and said, “Domestic or international, any act of aggression toward Israel or its citizens must be handled swiftly.”
The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel highlights the Democratic primaries where Israel has become a hot topic of debate, citing JI’s reporting on the races.
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Donna Edwards steps back into the fray
A lot has changed since Donna Edwards was last in Congress just over five years ago. After eight years representing the Washington, D.C., suburbs, the former Maryland congresswoman suffered election defeats in 2016 and 2018. She drove a used RV 12,000 miles across the country on a road trip, part beatnik soul-searching and part political quest to understand the sources of America’s disunity. And she’s changed too — or maybe it’s the Democratic Party that’s changed. She’s still figuring that one out. ”I recently had somebody describe me as a centrist, which was so bizarre,” Edwards, 63, told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in a recent interview. ”I’m still a progressive. In some ways, I look at some of the younger members, and they have a lot of energy and stuff about them, and I think, ‘Maybe that was me 30 years ago, but the me today is a little bit more pragmatic.’”
Progressive darling: When Edwards walked the halls of Congress, from 2008 to 2017, “centrist” was not a word that would have been used to describe her. She ran on a left-wing platform to unseat Al Wynn, a formidable Democratic incumbent whom she painted as out of touch on issues such as the Iraq War, which he had voted to authorize. Ever since that race, which she won with the support of groups including Emily’s List and MoveOn, she has been a darling of national progressive organizations.
Getting attention: Maryland’s 4th District, which is mostly composed of the majority-Black Prince George’s County, has a rather small Jewish population. But the district’s location near both Montgomery County and Baltimore, the two hubs of Jewish life in the state, means it has attracted strong interest from local Jewish activists.
Rocky start: Edwards’ tenure in Congress was colored by a strained relationship with the mainstream pro-Israel community in Maryland, dating back to her early days in office. “The relationship between the Jewish community and Donna Edwards got off to a rocky start,” Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, told Politicoin 2009. “I would be lying if I told you there wasn’t concern.” That year, amid tensions between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Edwards voted “present” on a resolution “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza” that passed 390-5.
Early endorsement: In 2008, Edwards was one of the first candidates ever endorsed by J Street. “The interesting thing for Donna is that she was ahead of her time,“ J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami told JI last week. “She’s been someone who really typifies what it means to be pro-Israel, and at the same time to have a very, very clear set of critiques about what the government and the policies of the [Israeli] government are.”
No boycott: Edwards does not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. “I have not supported it, either when it first emerged, and not now,” said Edwards. “I know, that sets me apart from some other members of Congress where people might say, ‘Oh, she might be aligned with them.’ And really, I mean, my history tells me that I have not.”
long time coming
With bipartisan support, Lipstadt appears headed for Senate confirmation following hearing
Deborah Lipstadt, the Biden administration’s nominee to be U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, appears bound for Senate confirmation following a long-delayed confirmation hearing on Tuesday, with the support of at least three Republicans, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The hearing, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was not without contentious moments: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) accused the Holocaust historian of spreading “malicious poison” by tweeting in March 2021 that Johnson had espoused “white supremacy/nationalism.”
In support: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) questioned Lipstadt over her tweets and told JI afterward that he plans to support her nomination. “Despite my concerns about what she has said, I think she’ll be a very forceful advocate at a time when we need someone who’s very forceful and credible,” he said. “My guess is most people will arrive at the place that… she has a long and distinguished commitment to battling antisemitism. It certainly makes her very credible and strong in that way.”
Clear path: At least two other Republicans have said they will support Lipstadt’s nomination — Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who co-chairs the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). With the support of Rubio and Portman in committee and at least three Republicans on the Senate floor, Lipstadt should have sufficient support to be confirmed, despite objections from some Republican senators.
Face-to-face: Johnson called Lipstadt “simply not qualified” and said he hoped his colleagues would not support her. Lipstadt told Johnson that she seeks to criticize the rhetoric people employ, rather than the people themselves. “You don’t know me,” Johnson said. “You don’t know a lot of the people that you have accused online in front of millions of people. You have engaged in the malicious poison — you have accused people you don’t know of very vile things. It seems like how you engage in malicious poison is purely partisan. You’re hurling these charges against people that are generally of one political persuasion. That’s not nonpartisan.”
Brush off: In his opening statement, Foreign Relations Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-ID) brushed off criticism that Republicans have faced for delaying the confirmation proceedings for six months. “I know there was some grumbling about how quickly Ms. Lipstadt’s nomination moved forward,” he said. “This probably is a learning moment for people who want to be appointed to something that requires Senate confirmation, and that is that whenever an appointee has made remarks publicly regarding a member… it always draws and should draw more scrutiny and more vetting than usual.”
Drawing lines: During her testimony, Lipstadt drew a distinction between criticism of the Israeli government’s policies and antisemitism. “I don’t think any rational-minded person would think that criticism of Israeli policies is antisemitism. I do think there are certain things that cross the line into antisemitism, and criticism can often cross the line,” Lipstadt said. “If you call everything antisemitism, when you have a real act of antisemitism, people aren’t paying attention.”
No Amnesty: Lipstadt called Amnesty International’s recent report accusing Israel of apartheid “unhistorical” and “part of a larger effort to delegitimize the Jewish state.” Such language, she added, “poisons the atmosphere” for Jewish students on college campuses.
on the hill
CENTCOM nominee discusses Iranian threats, regional cooperation with Israel
Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla, the nominee to lead U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), warned of Iranian threats and discussed options for increasing cooperation between the U.S., Arab nations and Israel at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Deal or no deal: Kurilla, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, called Iran “the number one destabilizing factor in the Middle East with their malign behavior,” and called for an “enforceable agreement” ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon as the Biden administration engages in talks in Vienna over a possible return to the 2015 nuclear deal. He also acknowledged “a risk” that sanctions relief through a potential deal could be used to support proxy and terrorist groups that target U.S. forces in the region.
Options: The general said he was not aware of the military options currently on the table for a strike against Iran’s nuclear capabilities, but said he would conduct such an assessment if confirmed. “My only concern would be that you could never take away the intellectual knowledge that they have on how to increase their nuclear capability and then the reaction that Iran would have to any strike on them,” he added.
Join hands: Kurilla also offered praise for increasing cooperation between Israel and Arab states, fueled by the 2020 Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and Israel’s move to CENTCOM. He said that there is “significant opportunity” for security cooperation — especially on issues like drone and missile defense and cybersecurity, as well as potential joint military exercises between Israel and the Gulf states that face similar threats from Iranian proxies.
Bonus: In a speech yesterday, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) called on the Senate to support the administration’s efforts to reenter the Iran deal. “Former President [Donald] Trump’s decision [to pull out] allowed us for four years to test the theory of the opponents [of the deal]… it was a spectacular failure,” Murphy said. The notion that Trump’s policies restored deterrence is “a laughable proposition because it did the exact opposite,” he added. “Iran didn’t come to the table on anything. Their actions… just got more serious and worse.” The Connecticut senator also said it will not be easy to reenter the agreement, given the advancements in Iran’s knowledge and the bevy of new non-nuclear sanctions the U.S. has imposed.
🇷🇺🇺🇦 A House Divided: Haaretz’s Judy Maltz explores how the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has split opinions among Israelis who emigrated from the region. “It used to be easier to figure out who was on which side. The immigrants from Russia sided with Russia, and the immigrants from Ukraine with Ukraine. That was true at least for the old-timers – those who had arrived in Israel during the huge immigration wave of the 1990s. But in the past few years, notes [Ukrainian-born Anna] Zharova, that is less pronounced because of the so-called ‘Putin aliyah’ – opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin who have been fleeing Russia and hold no emotional attachment to their country of birth.” [Haaretz]
📚 Mixing the Metaphysical and Mundane: The New Yorker’s Parul Sehgal looks at author Sheila Heti’s untraditional works, which combine styles and genres to mixed reviews. “Nathan Goldman, one of the few critics to delve into the lineage and form of Heti’s books, situated them in ‘a Jewish textual tradition, dating back to the Talmud, of blending genres and modes in the service of unceasing inquiry in which the metaphysical and the mundane are inseparably interwoven.’ Heti, too, has spoken of her novels in such terms, describing herself as a Jewish writer in her interest in ‘the circling, the self-doubt, the self as a clown of failed intentions, the recognition of the failure of the intellect to solve anything.’” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
💣 On Alert: Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff was rushed out of an event at a Washington, D.C., public school yesterday in response to a bomb threat, which was reportedly unrelated to Emhoff’s presence.
🇩🇪 Berlin-bound: The Senate confirmed University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann yesterday as the U.S. ambassador to Germany by a vote of 54-42.
🏫 School Blues: A Tennessee mother filed a complaint with her teenager’s Chattanooga-area school, alleging that an instructor told students “how to torture a Jew.”
🤑 Big Bucks: Daily Wire CEO and co-founder Jeremy Boreing said the conservative news outlet hit $100 million in annual revenue last month.
📺 Channeling Sheryl: Clare Foy will star as Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg in “Doomsday Machine,” an upcoming HBO series adapted from a 2021 book about the company that was co-authored by Sheera Frenkel.
🙍♂️ Man in the Middle: The Wall Street Journal looks at the challenges facing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as he navigates escalating tensions with Russia and diplomacy with the U.S.
💰 Propping Up the PA: The Israeli government is offering a series of economic incentives to the Palestinian Authority, in an effort to stem Hamas’ influence among Palestinians.
📗 Rare Attempt: Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tried to convince Yisrael Beiteinu party head Avigdor Lieberman to join a coalition led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the 2019 general election, the former envoy writes in his new memoir.
🕵️ Pegasus Problems: Israeli police chief Kobi Shabtai cut short a trip to the United Arab Emirates following reports that the NSO Group’s controversial Pegasus spyware had been used against civilians.
👨⚖️ Trial and Tribulations: The corruption trial against former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been postponed until next week, the Jerusalem District Court decided yesterday, in light of reports that police had unlawfully hacked the phone of a key witness using NSO’s spyware software.
🛫 Travel Trouble: Israel extended a deadline that could see it halting flights to the United Arab Emirates due to security concerns, with a senior Israeli official warning of a potential regional crisis if the issue is not resolved.
🔥 Syria Strikes: An anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria exploded over Israeli airspace early this morning, prompting the IDF to strike targets in Syria in response, the Israeli army said. Syrian state television reported that the Syrian missile was fired in response to an earlier strike in the Damascus area.
⚠️ Risk Factor: Israel was added to the Centers for Disease Control’s expanding list of highest-risk countries for travel as the Omicron variant continues to spread.
🕯️ Remembering: Architect Greta Ferusic, thought to be the only individual to survive both Auschwitz and the siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s, died at 97.
Pic of the Day
Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren (left) and United Hatzalah CEO Eli Beer (right) met with Patriots owner Robert Kraft at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Tuesday.
Singer-songwriter, inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Carole King (Klein) turns 80…
Grammy Award-winning songwriter of over 150 hits, Barry Mann (Imberman) turns 83… Economist and a professor at Columbia University, Nobel laureate in Economics in 2001, Joseph Stiglitz turns 79… Three-time Tony Award- and two-time Emmy Award-winning actress, Judith Light turns 73… Professor of history and modern Jewish studies at UCSD, Deborah Hertz turns 73… Israeli singer Shimi Tavori turns 69… Australian philanthropist and owner of a series of mineral and energy companies, Georgina Hope “Gina” Rinehart turns 68… Former governor of Virginia and past chair of the DNC, Terry McAuliffe, a/k/a “the Macker,” turns 65… Creator of the HBO series “The Wire” and NBC’s “Homicide,” David Simon turns 62… Theoretical physics professor at Columbia University and author, Brian Greene turns 59… Isaac Lieberman turns 58… Play-by-play announcer for ESPN’s men’s college basketball and for the Toronto Blue Jays, Dan Shulman turns 55…
British broadcasting executive who is currently chief content officer at the U.K.’s Channel 4, Ian Katz turns 54… President of the U.S. education portfolio at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Julie Mikuta… Assistant adjunct professor of journalism at UCLA, Abigail Helaine “Abbe” Goldman turns 52… Managing director of Tiedemann Wealth Management, Jeffrey L. Zlot turns 51… Charleston, S.C., resident, Ellen Miriam Brandwein turns 45… Television and film actress, Margarita Levieva turns 42… Majority leader of the Minnesota State Senate, Jeremy R. Miller turns 39… Director of public policy and strategy for the Christians United for Israel Action Fund, Boris Zilberman turns 38… Area director for AIPAC, Jason Pressberg turns 38… Principal of Blue Zone Partners, Thomas Szold turns 37… Director at Real Chemistry, Carly Abenstein turns 28… Israeli-Arab living in Tel Aviv, Muhammad Zoabi turns 24…