👋 Good Thursday morning!
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who, along with members of his Colleyville, Texas, congregation, was held hostage last month during an 11-hour standoff, is testifying before the Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee at 10 a.m. ET today about violence against minority institutions.
The Democratic Socialists of America’s (DSA) working group dedicated to “BDS and Palestine solidarity organizing” reacted to Rep. Jamaal Bowman’s (D-NY) withdrawal of co-sponsorship from the Israel Relations Normalization Act in a nine-tweet thread, calling the move “the equivalent of concessionary crumbs” to the DSA.
“Him removing sponsorship was the right thing, but he is still below the floor with regards to taking a principled stance on Palestine,” the group tweeted, adding, “Sure, he isn’t signing a bill, but he’s already normalized the occupation, explicitly come out against BDS (the floor for any self-respecting socialist) and funded weapons to Israel.”
The working group said that Bowman’s withdrawal of support for the Abraham Accords came only “after newly drawn district borders now exclude Riverdale, an area with a heavy Zionist constituency.”
The Louisville Community Bail Fund posted the $100,000 cash bail to release Black Lives Matter activist Quintez Brown, who was arrested earlier this week and charged with attempted murder for shooting at Louisville, Ky., mayoral candidate Craig Greenberg inside Greenberg’s campaign office on Monday.
Rabbi Shlomo Litvin, the chairman of the Kentucky Jewish Council, told JI that local law enforcement met with members of the Jewish community in the aftermath of Monday’s attack. “In the wake of the attempted murder of a member of our community, that attention is deeply appreciated,” he said. “The Lexington Police have been a massive blessing to our community, reaching out and ensuring that we have all the information we need and that our security needs are met.”
More than three-quarters of the House Republican Conference — including the three top members of GOP leadership — signed onto a letter to President Joe Biden to “remind” him that he cannot guarantee to the Iranians that U.S. sanctions will never be reimposed.
The Republicans wrote, “If you forge an agreement with the Supreme Leader of Iran [on a nuclear deal] without formal Congressional approval, it will be temporary and non-binding and will meet the same fate as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her delegation of House members met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett today at his office in Jerusalem, alongside Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Mike Herzog and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides.
The prime minister spoke about the warm relationship between Israel and the U.S., and the importance of bipartisan support for Israel, according to a statement from his office. They discussed strategic challenges facing Israel, primarily the Iranian nuclear program. Bennett also thanked Pelosi for her support in advancing U.S. supplemental funding for Iron Dome.
“Nancy, thank you for initiating this visit,” Bennett said. “I’ve heard wonderful feedback from everyone who has met you. I want to personally thank you for your ongoing support for Israel. We have a beautiful country here, pretty tough place, but with beautiful people. You’ve stood up for Israel. Your dad, may he rest in peace, stood up for the Jews in our darkest hour of history when it wasn’t easy to stand up for Jews. I want to thank you.”
The delegation had a full day of meetings with top Israeli officials in Jerusalem yesterday, and received a briefing by the IDF and viewing the Iron Dome missile-defense system at Palmachim Air Force Base.
With coalition member Mansour Abbas, chair of the Special Committee on Arab Society Affairs in the Knesset, the delegation “reiterated America’s unyielding commitment to a two-state solution that advances peace, security and prosperity for the Palestinian people and neighbors in the region.”
foundations of peace
Tzipi Livni opens up about her Gulf visits well before the Abraham Accords
Long before “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, played openly in Abu Dhabi or Manama, long before Israeli military jets took part in training exercises with Gulf countries, and long before normalization agreements were signed at the White House, there was one Israeli leader engaging in quiet, and very secret, diplomacy with the Arab world: Tzipi Livni. In a recent interview from her Tel Aviv home with Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash, the former Israeli lawmaker downplayed more than a decade of covert meetings and conversations with country leaders, foreign ministers and other representatives of the Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and even Saudi Arabia.
Game-changer: While former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner has twice been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize as one of the architects of the Abraham Accords, it is possible that this entire process might not have happened if not for the groundwork laid by Livni. “Truthfully, I didn’t think that Kushner could do this; it’s really a huge achievement. I mean, to have these agreements without the Palestinians, it really surprised me when I saw the news. It is a real game-changer,” Livni said during the interview at her Tel Aviv home. “[Kushner] deserves all the credit he is getting.”
Advanced signs: Livni said that she was as surprised as anyone when the White House announced the agreements in August 2020, although, she noted, there were some signs of a regional sea change. She recalled two key incidents several months before that momentous announcement, and the subsequent signing of the Accords on the White House lawn in September 2020, that made her realize attitudes were shifting. “In 2019, not long after I quit politics, I was invited to attend a conference in Bahrain,” Livni said. “It was an international conference, but the event was sponsored by Bahraini officials, and I arrived there openly with an Israeli passport…. For the first time ever, I held a public meeting with [Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed] Al Khalifa, and we even took a photo together,” she continued. “It felt very normal and that was something I was not used to.”
Decade of diplomacy: Livni traces her covert meetings back to the period of the Annapolis Conference more than a decade earlier. It was her Palestinian peace partner, the Palestinian Authority’s late chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, who first lobbied Arab leaders on her behalf, urging them to meet with the Israeli leader. Later, said Livni, former Norwegian peace negotiator Terje Larsen stepped in, inviting her and other regional leaders to gather under the guise of his International Peace Institute (IPI). “The meetings were not public but there were others in the room from Arab countries,” she said, describing how she soon had the phone numbers of numerous Arab ministers and their assistants and began meeting with them regularly, informally, on the sidelines of international gatherings such as the U.N. General Assembly in New York and the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
Opening the door: Among the meetings and relationships forged, Livni describes a 2008 visit to Qatar for the Doha Forum on Democracy, Development, and Free Trade. Her appearance at the conference was made public, but while in Qatar she attended a more private dinner at the home of the country’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. There she met with the foreign ministers of Oman and other Arab states, and held a heated exchange with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “It’s clear that this opened the door, it was the first understanding that we have mutual regional interests and there was the possibility to have a direct line, discreetly, to speak about these issues,” she continued. “There were also other lines [between the countries] but they were mostly on security. I was speaking with them on broader challenges.”
race to watch
Rep. Kathleen Rice’s retirement sets up Democratic primary sprint in N.Y.
Rep. Kathleen Rice’s (D-NY) announcement on Tuesday that she will not seek reelection — which came as a surprise to many in New York politics — sets up a dash to bring together a Democratic primary field with just two weeks until the start of the state’s petitioning process, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Timing is everything: A statement issued this week by the congresswoman — who took office in 2015 representing Nassau County — in which she announced her retirement from Congress offered no specifics as to her decision. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she’s retiring after the district map came out,” Democratic strategist Ross Wallenstein told JI. Earlier this month, Gov. Kathy Hochul approved the state’s new congressional map.
Bad omens: Others believe Rice may have seen warning signs on the horizon for 2022, which is expected to be a strong year for Republicans nationwide. “No politician wants to lose or take the risk of losing,” Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime New York Democratic strategist, told JI. “Last fall, suburban politicians, Democrats tended to get in trouble, particularly in New York. Why? Crime… It’s a problem for [Rice], particularly as a former district attorney. And as a congresswoman, she could have paid the price for what people are beginning to perceive as a Democratic mess.”
Up in the air: The nonpartisan election handicapper Cook Political Report rates the race as “Solid Democratic,” but some on both sides see the potential for a more competitive race. Democratic consultant Jake Dilemani said that the district is “by no means a lock” for Democrats, and success in November depends both on whom Democrats nominate and Biden’s approval ratings come Election Day. The district, he noted, includes “marginal parts of the county that flip back and forth between the parties” and some areas that are more solidly Republican, such as the Five Towns.
Testing the waters: Potential Democratic candidates who have been floated include former Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, Nassau County Legislator Kevan Abrahams, Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages, former Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, former State Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder and Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy. A source close to Gillen confirmed that she is “seriously considering” a bid for the seat. None of the potential candidates commented on the speculation. “It’ll be someone who’s got the capacity to come up with money pretty quickly and who can win,” Sheinkopf said, adding that the primary will likely be competitive.
Flip side: So far, only one Republican candidate, former Marine and tech entrepreneur Bill Staniford, has announced his candidacy. Others who could potentially join the race include state Assemblyman Edward Ra, who represents Hempstead, and Nassau County legislator Laura Schaefer, a source familiar with the district said. Ra declined to comment and Schaefer did not respond to a request for comment.
on the rise
Mike Gibbons likes his chances
In recent weeks, Mike Gibbons has shot to the front of the pack in Ohio’s crowded Republican Senate primary. While Gibbons has long been viewed as a viable contender among nearly half a dozen top-tier candidates seeking the nomination to replace retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), the Cleveland-based investment banker, 69, has for months struggled to assert his dominance in the publicly available polling on the race. But his numbers now appear to be spiking at an opportune moment, with just under three months remaining until the May primary, reports Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
‘We’re connecting’: In an interview with JI this week, Gibbons expressed confidence about his prospects as he enters the final stretch of the primary. “It’s really a confirmation of what I was always already seeing on the ground,” he said, attributing his newfound momentum, in part, to a statewide campaign tour in which he has so far visited 75 of Ohio’s 88 counties. “We feel we’re connecting, but it wasn’t showing in the polls for a while.” The Senate hopeful said he expects “to see a continued, positive direction” as the race heats up in the coming weeks.
Survey says: On Tuesday, an independent survey from The Trafalgar Group showed Gibbons in second place at 16%, trailing former Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel by five points. More favorably for Gibbons, his campaign released two internal polls this month, both conducted by Cygnal, that placed him ahead of his opponents for the first time since he entered the race last spring. The most recent poll, made public on Friday, placed Gibbons in first with 23% of the vote and a 12-point lead over Mandel.
Latest attack: It hasn’t hurt that Gibbons has now loaned his campaign nearly $11.5 million, having launched a $10 million ad campaign last summer. On Tuesday, Gibbons released his latest salvo, ridiculing both two opponents, J.D. Vance and Jane Timken, as “Washington wimps” while casting himself as “Trump strong.” The ad made no mention of Mandel. “Josh is moving in the wrong direction,” Gibbons said of the conservative rabble-rouser, who has moved further to the right than many in the field.
Paul’s stall: Gibbons touted an early endorsement from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has angered pro-Israel advocates as he continues to block the $1 billion in supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system. “I have not discussed that specifically with him,” Gibbons, who supports the funding, told JI. “I know for a fact that he’s greatly in support of the State of Israel, so that’s certainly not an issue,” he said of Paul. “These things get complicated and caught up in issues that may not even be related, and I don’t know that specifically. I’m going to find out. I haven’t focused on it. But all I can say is, Iron Dome is going to get funded if I have anything to do with it.”
👨 On a Roll: In Politico, Elise Labott profiles Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll, the 37-year-old model-turned-politician who is looking to change American perceptions of Israel and open a dialogue with those with whom he disagrees. “Still, colleagues call Roll a rising star who embodies his party’s DNA: moderate, inclusive and forward-looking. Some Israelis compare him to a modern-day Srulik, the iconic, mid-century Israeli cartoon of an aspirational, strong Israeli man. ‘He knows about the troubles of small business and those fighting for equal rights,’ said Israel’s energy minister, Karine Elharrar, another member of Yesh Atid. ‘He hasn’t forgotten the challenges he faced or what rocketed him into politics.’” [Politico]
🤝 Man of Influence: In Politico, Matthew Karnitschnig spotlights German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, the longtime chairman of the Munich Security Conference, exploring his impact on the annual international security policy gathering. “Since his departure from Germany’s foreign service nearly 15 years ago, the ambassador has transformed the Munich Security Conference from a sleepy annual gathering of Cold Warriors and foreign policy wonks into a year-round traveling circus of global elites, populated by dozens of heads of state from Joe Biden to the president of Estonia, titans of Silicon Valley including Mark Zuckerberg and even the likes of U2 frontman Bono. At this year’s installment, which gets underway on Friday, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will be among the guests of honor…For Ischinger, however, the proceedings are about more than lofty debates on global issues or high-profile elbow-rubbing. The éminence grise of Germany’s foreign policy establishment, he has parleyed the ready access the conference gives him to the wood-paneled world of high-level politics into a lucrative sideline of peddling advice, access and lobbying to many of the same individuals, governments and institutions involved in the MSC, according to public filings and people familiar with his business dealings.” [Politico]
🥖 French Twist: In The Hill, Maram Stern, the executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress, calls on France to recognize antisemitism as a unique form of hatred as Paris assumes the six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union. “In the United States, diversity contributes to its unique character. It is understood that each group experiences bigotry differently, in part because it manifests in distinct ways. The history of slavery in the United States, for example, has multifaceted impacts on many Americans today. By contrast, in the eyes of the French government, all citizens are French, first and foremost, as opposed to being distinctly migrant, Jew, Muslim or African. These groups’ experiences of hatred are also viewed similarly; in France, hate is hate, and the conventional — but false — wisdom is that it must be confronted the same way, in all cases.” [TheHill]
🇮🇷 Shared Enemies: In Al-Arabiya, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Hussain Abdul-Hussain and David May suggest that recent attacks by Iran-backed Houthis against the United Arab Emirates have created an opportunity for partnership and collaboration between the UAE and Israel, which also faces threats from Iranian proxy groups. “Every crisis presents an opportunity. Both the UAE and Israel have found themselves the targets of Iranian-sponsored drone and rocket attacks. Israel’s expressions of solidarity and offers of aid in the wake of Houthi attacks on the UAE will further cement the budding Israeli-Emirati alliance. The bonds enhanced during this crisis may lead to mutual recognition in the UAE and Israel that the two countries do not just face shared threats but may have a shared destiny.” [AlArabiya]
Around the Web
👱🏻♀️ Pentagon Pick: Celeste Wallander was confirmed by a vote of 83-13 to become assistant secretary of defense for international security after the Senate cleared her path to confirmation.
✋ Never Again: Arizona is facing a lawsuit from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix and two community members over its use of hydrogen cyanide — a gas compound similar to the Zyklon-B that was used in Auschwitz-Birkenau during the Holocaust — in the state’s executions.
🗯️ Call for Comment: Former Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) is facing calls from some in Georgia’s Jewish community to apologize for comments he made last week comparing former President Donald Trump’s Twitter suspension to pre-WWII Germany.
👨🍳 Fancy Fressing: The Wall Street Journal Magazine spotlights Jewish chefs and restaurant owners who are rethinking traditional Jewish cuisine.
📗 War of Word: The publisher of the top German dictionary changed its definition of the word “Jew” after an outcry from the country’s Jewish community.
👨 Dark Gesture? The European Parliament is set to launch a sanctions procedure against Bulgarian MEP Angel Dzhambazki, who appeared to make a Nazi salute in the parliament yesterday, a gesture he denies making, saying he was “humbly waving.”
🇦🇺 Down Under Designation: The Australian government will list Hamas in its entirety, including its political wing, as a terrorist organization.
🖼️ Reunited: France will return 15 pieces of artwork looted from Jewish owners during WWII following a Senate vote on Tuesday.
🔥 Apprehended: Swedish authorities arrested a man in Stockholm connected to a series of arson fires at Jewish institutions in the Boston area in 2019.
🇮🇱 Iron Dome Alternative: Defense News looks at the challenges posed by Israel’s new “laser walls” — a more cost-effective alternative to the Iron Dome missile-defense system.
👍 Energy Flow: Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar greenlit an effort to allow Israeli energy to travel to Egypt through Jordan.
📈 Trending Up: Israel’s economy set a two-decade growth record, as its post-pandemic rebound translated to booming business.
☢️ Vienna Views: French officials said a decision about reinstating the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is days away, while Iran said that the agreement has become an “empty shell” after months of negotiations.
🚀 Rocket Reach: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah announced that the Iranian terrorist proxy has the capability to transform thousands of its rockets into precision-guided missiles.
🕯️ Remembering: Harriet Shapiro, the first female attorney in the Office of the U.S. Solicitor General, died at 93.
Pic of the Day
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other members of the congressional delegation visiting Israel this week pose in front of an Iron Dome battery on Wednesday in Israel.
Real estate developer and former co-owner of the New York Mets, Saul Katz turns 83… Former president of AIPAC, Steven Grossman turns 76… Executive director of American Jewish Archives and professor of Reform Jewish history at HUC-JIR, Gary Phillip Zola turns 70… One of the most popular Israeli basketball players of all time, Miki Berkovich turns 68… Owner of Lynn’s Photography in Beachwood, Ohio, Lynn Katz Danzig turns 68… Professor of mathematics at Princeton University, Noga Alon turns 66… Chairman of Israel’s Shas party, Aryeh Deri turns 63… Partner in the D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis specializing in international trade and national security, Ivan A. Schlager turns 61… Rabbi of Khal Ahavas Yisroel Tzemach Tzedek in Baltimore and kashrus administrator at the Star-K, Rabbi Dovid Heber turns 58… Big-budget filmmaker Michael Bay turns 57… President and CEO of MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks, Derrick Hall turns 53… Executive director of American University’s Women and Politics Institute, Betsy Fischer Martin turns 52… Professor of international relations at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sharon Pardo turns 51… Brigadier general in the IDF, he served as the chief of the Combat Engineering Corps, Oshri Lugasi turns 50… Chief content officer at McClatchy, Kristin Roberts turns 47… Executive director of the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life, the Columbia/Barnard Hillel, Brian Cohen turns 44… Israeli actress and model who won the Miss World beauty pageant in 1998, she has since become observant and completed law school, Linor Abargil turns 42… Actor and filmmaker, Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns 41… Acting assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Samantha Erin Vinograd turns 39… Senior multi-platform editor for CNN Politics, Dianna Heitz turns 38… Miriam Schulman…