👋 Good Wednesday morning!
Quote of the day — “We’re very happy that Jerusalem is joining the team,” said Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief.
Goldberg was commenting on the hiring of Jerusalem Demsas as a new staff writer at the magazine.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) visited the Knesset in Jerusalem today, where she and a delegation of House members were greeted with an official ceremony.
Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy told Pelosi after the ceremony that the State of Israel “recognizes and values your uncompromising efforts to ensure its security.”
“For many years, you have defended our right to protect our citizens, and you have stood by us even in the most difficult of times, as we saw just recently during the last operation in Gaza,” Levy said. “The passage of the law to fund the replenishment of the Iron Dome system will forever be associated with you, and always as one of the greatest displays of support by the American people and by the United States House of Representatives for the State of Israel.” Referring to “winds of war blowing in Eastern Europe,” Levy said he hoped the U.S. and its European partners would succeed in deescalating the situation via diplomatic means. Levy is planning to visit Congress at the end of next month.
The delegation met with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Minister of Immigration and Absorption Pnina Tamano-Shata, Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog, Knesset member Ruth Wasserman and Director of the Policy and Political-Military Bureau Zohar Palti.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Minister of Transport and Road Safety Merav Michaeli also held individual meetings with the delegation, and President Isaac Herzog was scheduled to hold a diplomatic working meeting with the group, alongside Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides.
The delegation will also travel to Germany and the United Kingdom. “As threats to democracy grow more alarming and urgent, American leadership remains committed to advancing security and stability, economic prosperity and democratic governance around the world,” Pelosi said ahead of the trip.
Also in Israel this week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has held a flurry of meetings with Israel’s top brass and other officials in Jerusalem, including President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Lapid, Gantz, Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology Orit Farkash Hacohen, Likud Knesset member Nir Barkat and Deputy Director General for Strategic Affairs Joshua Zarka, as well as Nides.
Bennett met with the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, at his private palace yesterday. “I consider it a historical day, to receive the prime minister of Israel,” said Al Khalifa. Bennett’s visit marked the first for an Israeli premier in the Gulf nation. “Your Majesty, it has been a huge honor to visit your wonderful Kingdom of Bahrain, and I admire your courage and your determination to build your country,” Bennett said. “I think we discussed many ways to build new bridges, and an architecture for a stronger and more stable region. And I’m looking forward to continuing this remarkable relationship.”
on the hill
Seventeen lawmakers write to Biden urging reinstatement of Houthi terrorist designation
In a letter addressed to President Joe Biden and obtained by Jewish Insider, a bipartisan group of 17 members of Congress urged the White House to redesignate the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The members also argued that withdrawing the Houthis’ prior FTO designation “has done little” to improve the humanitarian situation in Yemen and only fueled further violence from the Iran-backed group, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Background: The letter, dated Feb. 8, was sent amid heightened concerns over escalating Houthi attacks on the United Arab Emirates and U.S. forces in the Gulf. The Biden administration removed the Houthis, a Yemeni militia group, from the FTO list in February 2021, with an eye toward ensuring humanitarian aid continued to flow into Yemen. Following a series of attacks against targets in the UAE, the Biden administration has publicly and privately mulled reversing course.
No dice: The lawmakers, led by Reps. Mike Waltz (R-FL) and Seth Moulton (D-MA) emphasized that there had been a significant uptick in attacks on U.S. partners and forces in Gulf states since the U.S. withdrew the FTO designation and that humanitarian aims had been unsuccessful. “I understand that removing the designation was meant to help the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen, but it has done little outside of embolden the Houthis to escalate their attacks and block reconciliation efforts in the country,” the letter reads.
Partnering up: “The U.S. relies on our relationship with the UAE to promote regional security and address pressing global challenges,” the lawmakers continued. “This is a critical time to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with an important ally while they are under assault, reiterating our commitment to the US-UAE strategic partnership.”
Sign here: Other signatories include House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Don Bacon (R-NE), Scott Franklin (R-FL), Ann Wagner (R-MO), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Peter Meijer (R-MI), Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), Pat Fallon (R-TX), Liz Cheney (R-WY), Young Kim (R-CA), Carol Miller (R-WV), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Donald Norcross (D-NJ) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ).
Jamaal Bowman pulls support for Abraham Accords bill
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) plans to withdraw his support for and vote against bipartisan legislation aimed at strengthening and expanding the Abraham Accords, the congressman announced in a letter sent to constituents on Tuesday evening and obtained by Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod and Matthew Kassel.
Initial position: The Israel Relations Normalization Act has 328 House cosponsors, not including Bowman — 162 Democrats and 166 Republicans — and 72 in the Senate. The Abraham Accords, originally signed in September 2020, normalized relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, with Morocco and Sudan joining later. Bowman signed onto the bill in September 2021, following its introduction in April.
About-face: Bowman cited a recent trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories as contributing to his decision to his reversal, adding that he “became aware” that the U.S. had agreed to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara and discuss the sale of advanced weaponry to the UAE. “In the end, it is my estimation that these actions will only escalate violence in the Middle East and make already vulnerable communities less safe,” Bowman said. “This agreement to normalize relations unhelpfully isolates Palestine and Western Sahara when what we need is a process that engages them.”
Navigating tensions: Bowman’s Israel trip, in addition to his vote in favor of $1 billion in supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system last September, raised the ire of some on the far left. The Democratic Socialists of America announced in December that it would not endorse Bowman in the 2022 midterms, following calls from some in the organization to expel him. By contrast, some Jewish leaders in Bowman’s district, which includes the Bronx neighborhood of Riverdale, had been encouraged by the congressman’s recent House vote as well as his visit to Israel, but his latest move seems to have erased much of that goodwill.
Local reactions: On Tuesday evening, a group of local rabbis expressed their dismay over Bowman’s reversal in a joint letter shared with JI. Bowman’s “withdrawal of support for this important piece of legislation, which is poised to improve Mideast stability, economic opportunity, and which will disincentivize some of the region’s most egregious sponsors of terror,” they wrote, “is lamentable, and will surely be received with bewilderment and disapproval by many voters in Rep. Bowman’s district.”
Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey announces challenge to Rashida Tlaib
Longtime Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey announced Friday that she intends to challenge Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) in the Democratic primary in Michigan’s newly drawn 12th Congressional District, adding a well-known face in Detroit politics to what could be a competitive primary race, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Try again: Winfrey was elected last year to a fifth term as Detroit’s city clerk — an office she has held since 2005 — with more than 70% of the vote, crushing opponent Denzel McCampbell, who serves as communications director for Tlaib’s campaign. This will be her second run for Congress, following a failed primary run in 2016 against then-Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). Conyers, who served more than 50 years in Congress before retiring following sexual harassment allegations, defeated Winfrey by more than 20 percentage points.
On paper: Winfrey’s candidacy is “on paper… potentially compelling,” according to Adrian Hemond, a local political consultant who led Conyers’ 2016 campaign. “She’s an African-American woman from the city of Detroit” who has won citywide office, Hemond said. “Congresswoman Tlaib is not, especially now that she moved to Dearborn.”
Go wide: Ed Sarpolus, another local political consultant who ran Conyers’ 2012 reelection campaign, noted that Winfrey’s prominence in Detroit will only get her so far in the new 12th District. “This [district] is more than Detroit. She has to win in other communities [where] people don’t know her,” Sarpolus said, noting that her name recognition was poor compared to Tlaib’s in a recent poll he ran. “Number two, she’s dealing [with] communities that are much more conservative [than Detroit].”
Tick-tock: Hemond predicted that Winfrey will have an “uphill battle” against Tlaib, noting that she struggled to raise money in 2016 and failed to pick up influential endorsements in her race against Conyers. Winfrey raised $84,000 in 2016 to Conyers’ $628,000. “We’re going to know in about 30 days whether this candidacy is real or not,” he said. “If she’s obviously out raising money like gangbusters, she’s out doing the work in the community and she can announce a couple of decent high-profile endorsements in the next 30 days, then she might be viable. But if you haven’t seen any of that 30 days from now, then it’s pretty unlikely.”
Qatari foreign minister pressed on why his country hasn’t joined the Abraham Accords
On the latest episode of his Newsweek podcast, “The Diplomat,” Jason Greenblatt, who served as former President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, interviewed Qatari Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
As for normalization: Earlier this month, Al Thani told Axios that normalization with Israel is off the table “in the absence of a real commitment to a two-state solution.” Greenblatt told Al Thani that he likes “to refer to Qatar and some other countries who aren’t parties to the Abraham Accords — I refer to them as countries that have not yet signed the Abraham Accords. And I know that you’re not signing it tomorrow. And it may not happen for quite some time. But what would your message to the Israeli public be?”
Al Thani: “Qatar is a country for peace. We are actually encouraging all the parties [Israelis and Palestinians] to engage in genuine peace talks between them. We are with the two-state solution; we want to see two countries living side by side with each other peacefully… Our main problem is the Israeli conflict with the Palestinians, and I think this is the core of the issue between most of the Arab countries and Israel. And the Arab countries took a position back in 2001, supporting the Saudi Initiative, which was done by late King Abdullah, which we call the Arab Peace Initiative [it was endorsed by the Arab League in 2002]. And Qatar has been subscribing to that initiative. Before that, when there was a prospect for peace, Qatar was the first country in the Gulf that had a relation with Israel; we [had an] open trade mission, we continued to have a relationship, we continued believing in diplomacy and having a peaceful resolution. But unfortunately, when we have seen the series of wars that’s been happening over there, we lost this hope back in 2009, we shut down the [trade] office, we kept our working relationship with the Israelis, hoping that this will be helpful for the Palestinians and it will be helpful in the future to have [a] peaceful resolution over there. And what we are saying here in Qatar, we want to see a two-state solution, we want to see [that] the people of two countries are not harmed.”
Greenblatt: “Right, and we can’t lose hope. And I should point out — and you touched on this — that in a way Qatar was way ahead of its time, way ahead of the Abraham Accords. Because Shimon Peres visited Qatar years ago, you did have the trade office, Israeli athletes have and continue to participate in sports here [in Qatar]. I believe the Israeli national anthem was played at some of the sporting events. I’m a big proponent of dialogue. And I think with more dialogue, perhaps, perhaps we can work our way through this.”
🇹🇷 Turkey Ties: The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin looks at the potential conflicts Dr. Mehmet Oz could face as a dual Turkish citizen who served in that country’s military — and as someone who maintains close ties to the country, led by autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — should he be elected to the Senate in Pennsylvania. “I hadn’t even really gotten engaged in any of this until I decided to run for the Senate, and I’d never been politically involved in Turkey in any capacity,” Oz told Rogin. [WaPo]
➡️ Hard Right Turn: The New York Times’ Jennifer Medina and Lisa Lerer look at the political evolution of Ohio Senate candidate Josh Mandel, who has rebranded himself as a conservative firebrand and former President Donald Trump’s “number one ally” in the Buckeye State. “Mr. Mandel has burned protective masks and blamed the ‘deep state’ for the pandemic and has claimed that former President Barack Obama runs the current White House. He has rejected the separation of church and state and said that he wants to ‘shut down government schools and put schools in churches and synagogues.’ The grandson of Holocaust survivors who were aided by resettlement organizations, he has compared a federal vaccine-or-testing mandate to the actions of the Gestapo, and today’s Afghan refugees to ‘alligators.’” [NYTimes]
🕍 Conservative Conundrum: Religious News Service reporter Yonat Shimron examines a shortage of Conservative rabbis in North America as many of them retire or seek roles outside the synagogue, with a shortage of candidates to replace them. “The Conservative movement, which has two seminaries in the U.S. — one in New York and one in Los Angeles — will graduate and ordain a total of 23 men and women this spring…Yet their ordination won’t necessarily lead to filled vacancies. A growing number of graduates aren’t seeking a pulpit career. The role of a synagogue rabbi is demanding. The average synagogue is larger than the average midsize church and typically has only one rabbi on staff, [Rabbi Aaron] Spiegel said. ‘We ask too much of one person,’ Spiegel said. ‘That’s a default position synagogues have had for a long time.’ More men and women seeking ordination are choosing other career tracks such as chaplaincy, teaching, consulting or advocacy roles at nonprofits. ‘The idea of what it means to be a rabbi in the world is shifting, in the best of ways,’ said Rabbi Elan Babchuck, director of innovation at CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. ‘But when a marketplace shifts, the pipelines in that marketplace take 10 or 15 years to adapt.'” [RNS]
Around the Web
⏩ Moving Forward: The Senate Armed Services Committee advanced Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla’s nomination to lead CENTCOM.
👪 His Back Pages: NPR’s Daniel Estrin writes about the connections between his long-lost relatives living in Russia and Ukraine as the countries sit on the brink of war.
🚆 Next Time, Northeast Regional: A Washington-bound Acela train from Boston with over 100 passengers was stranded without power in New York City for almost seven hours.
☢️ Join the Club: Israel’s Foreign Ministry deployed the head of its strategic department to Vienna to meet with officials negotiating a return to the Iran nuclear deal, the first time since talks began last spring that an Israeli diplomat has been invited to the talks.
🇮🇶 Weak Hand: The Iraqi government is doing little to contain the influence of Iranian proxies in the country, according to a Pentagon report.
📺 Hamas TV: The Associated Press spotlights a new Hamas-produced TV series “Fist of the Free,” which reportedly glorifies militant actions against Israel by the Gaza Strip rulers.
🇯🇴 Crypto Craze: Al-Monitor reports on the rise in popularity of cryptocurrency trading in Jordan, despite a ban on such activities by government officials.
💰 Working Wage: Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman plans to reduce the number of hours of religious study required for a state stipend, hoping the move will incentivize the Haredi community to work more hours.
🇺🇦 Escape Plan: U.S. intelligence provided to Israel reportedly resulted in the government’s call for Israeli citizens to leave Ukraine last week.
🚢 Boat Buy: The U.S. is evaluating adding Israeli unmanned ships to the Navy’s Middle East fleet, a move that would further entrench Israel’s military’s influence in the region.
✋ Stalled Selection: The Jewish Agency chairmanship selection committee is expected to vote again for the next chairman after failing to choose a candidate in a previous vote.
😷 Mask Menace: A parent of a student at Scheck Hillel Community School in North Miami Beach, Fla., is facing charges on one count of writing threats to kill or do bodily injury after texting other parents threatening to burn the school down over its mask mandate.
🔨 Behind Bars: Los Angeles actor Zachary Horwitz was sentenced to 20 years in prison for defrauding investors out of millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme.
👨⚖️ Case Closed: An East Longmeadow, Mass., man was sentenced to five years in prison yesterday, convicted of placing a firebomb outside a Jewish assisted living facility in 2020.
➡️ Transitions: Julie Platt was nominated to be the chair of the board of trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America. David Axelrod, founder and director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, will transition to senior fellow and chairman of the institute’s advisory board.
🕯️ Remembering: Kathryn Kates, whose long acting career included an appearance in “Seinfeld” to tell Jerry and Elaine that her bakery was out of chocolate babka, died at 73.
Pic of the Day
Team USA goalkeeper Strauss Mann stops a shot during last night’s quarterfinals game against Slovakia at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The U.S. team would go on to lose in an upset in shootouts.
Marrakesh, Morocco-born co-founder, president and managing partner of Avenue Capital Group, Sonia Gardner turns 60…
Activist investor Carl Icahn turns 86… Founding national director of American Friends of Lubavitch and the director of Chabad activities in Greater Philadelphia, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov turns 85… Writer and professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, Michael Joseph Shapiro turns 82… Chair emeritus and founding chair of the Jewish Electorate Institute, Ralph Grunewald turns 66… Secretary-general of the World Council of Religious Leaders, Bawa Jain turns 65… Editor of the Talent Network at The Washington Post, Susan K. Levine turns 64… British serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, Maurice Samuel Ostro turns 57… Co-director of Women for Israel’s Tomorrow, Nadia Matar turns 56… Past president of Hebrew Free Loan in Detroit and founder of Brilliant Detroit helping children out of poverty, Carolyn Glaser Bellinson turns 55… President of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, Amy Kurtz turns 53… Head of communications for Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Media Group, Ty Trippet turns 51… Regional director of the Westchester region of the Birthright Israel Foundation, Marissa Schaevitz Levey turns 38… CEO of FinePoint PR, she is the author of “Brag Better,” Meredith Fineman turns 35… U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) turns 35… Singer-songwriter and guitarist, Danielle Haim turns 33… Rachel Rubenstein turns 31… Eric McDonald…
Birthweek: Associate director of community engagement at the Anti-Defamation League, Carly Pildis…