👋 Good Thursday morning!
The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood and Jeffrey Goldberg are out this morning with a new interview of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The pair had two meetings with MBS in recent months, one at a “remote palace by the Red Sea, his family’s COVID bunker,” and the other in Riyadh.
Asked if he had ordered the killing of columnist Jamal Khashoggi, MBS replied it was “obvious” that he had not. “It hurt me a lot, it hurt me and it hurt Saudi Arabia, from a feelings perspective.”
On President Joe Biden icing him and Saudi Arabia out, MBS retorted, “Where is the potential in the world today? It’s in Saudi Arabia. And if you want to miss it, I believe other people in the East are going to be super happy.” Read the full interview here.
Negotiators in Viennasay that a decision about reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is days away, with one Iranian official explaining that “bitter experience” following Washington’s 2018 withdrawal from the agreement has caused Iran to dig in on its demands.
Gabriel Noronha, a former State Department official who worked on Iran and was fired by the Trump administration for social media posts critical of the then-president in the days following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, posted several dozen tweets yesterday warning of an impending new deal with Iran. The tweets, he said, were prompted by his former colleagues at State, the National Security Council and in the European Union, whom he said “are so concerned with the concessions being made by [U.S. Envoy for Iran] Rob Malley in Vienna that they’ve allowed me to publish some details of the coming deal in the hopes that Congress will act to stop the capitulation.”
“[T]he deal being negotiated in Vienna is dangerous to our national security, it is illegal, it is illegitimate, and it in no way serves U.S. interests in either the short or long term,” Noronha wrote, citing Malley’s push to lift sanctions against a range of Tehran’s top officials.
Also at issue, Noronha noted, was the designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Tehran has pushed for its unconditional removal from the list, while U.S. negotiators have proposed removing the designation if Iran joins new negotiations to discuss its regional activities. The issue of the designation, Noronha said, is “one of the last issues still on the table in Vienna.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on Deborah Lipstadt’s nomination to be the State Department antisemitism envoy, on Tuesday, March 8.
Lipstadt should have enough support to clear the committee but any member of the committee — such as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who opposes her nomination and has been lobbying fellow Republicans to oppose her — can delay the vote until the following committee meeting.
The committee will alsovote again on Barbara Leaf, nominated to be assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs. She cleared the committee last November, but the committee must vote again in the new year.
The House Homeland Security Committeequickly approved on Wednesday the Nonprofit Security Grant Improvement Act, which creates an administrative office to oversee the program and proposes massive funding increases.
It also approved the Bombing Prevention Act, which would create an Office for Bombing Prevention inside the Department of Homeland Security to address bombings and bomb threats. The bill is supported by The Jewish Federations of North America and the Anti-Defamation League.
New In town
Shirin Herzog sings a new tune as ambassador’s spouse
Politicians have a habit of referring to their spouses — and in a world where most politicians are men, that’s usually their wives — as their “better halves.” And while Shirin Herzog is eager to engage in diplomacy alongside her husband, the new Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog, she intends to do so on her own terms and with her own skills, with a title that is much longer than spouse. “We are two individual players in a united team,” Herzog told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in a recent interview at a Washington hotel. “I’m here to support my husband, but I haven’t given up my career, [with] the full support and encouragement of my husband.”
Way more: “She’s what an ambassador’s spouse is all about, being in their own right an accomplished person. I think that’s very important,” U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides told JI. “One of the reasons you get credibility in these jobs is in your own right. She’s a business person. She understands the Israeli politics. She understands the corporate world. She understands how to get things done. I’m sure she’d be a gracious host, but she’s way more than that.”
Backstory: Born and raised near Tel Aviv, Herzog served as a commissioned officer in Israel’s version of the Navy SEALs. After studying law at Hebrew University, she accepted a job at the law firm Goldfarb Seligman, eventually becoming its first female partner. (She signed her partnership agreement while out on maternity leave.) She still works at the firm, where she focuses on mergers and acquisitions.
Climate conscious: Throughout her career, Herzog has at times worked with companies that focus on the environment, including Netafim, the first major drip-irrigation company in Israel. Herzog hopes to bring a focus on climate change to her work in Washington. “Research shows that climate change is a crisis throughout the world, but our region is going to be hit very, very hard,” she said. “You need to get ready to tackle it. And we should join hands in finding a solution with our neighbors and with everybody else.”
Sea breeze: Herzog said there are two activities that, more than anything else, make her happy. One of them is not an activity Americans can expect to see Shirin take up in a diplomatic capacity, unless they catch her on “diplomatic travel” to the beach: windsurfing. “I grew up rowing and windsurfing,” she said. As a child who lived on the coast, “I was mostly in the sea. But I was a hard-working student.”
Singing along: The other passion of Herzog’s has already made its way into her diplomacy. “I told you the two things that make me happy. The second is singing,” said Herzog, who led “Hatikvah” at the embassy’s Hanukkah party in December, soon after she and her husband arrived in November. She said she plans to host a number of evenings this year for singing, “shira be’tzibur we say in Hebrew, singalong. We used to do those evenings in our home in Tel Aviv, and I’d like to bring them here. It makes me very happy to sing.” Her husband is also a music fan — he plays the flute — but “he would say that as far as singing, our average is good,” Herzog said, laughing.
How vulnerable is Jamaal Bowman?
Suddenly, it seems, Rep. Jamaal Bowman’s (D-NY) road to reelection has gotten rockier. Last month, the freshman congressman drew condemnation from Jewish leaders when, in an unexpected reversal, he pulled his support for bipartisan legislation aimed at expanding the Abraham Accords. Now, as he begins his campaign for another term in New York’s redrawn 16th District, Bowman is facing a growing number of primary challengers who are eager to cast his decision not only as misguided but indicative of a broader resistance to compromise that is out of sync with voter sentiment, reports Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Shots fired: “It’s basically saying, ‘If you don’t agree with me 100%, then you’re on the other side and I don’t talk to you,” Manuel Casanova, a former political strategist and sales manager in New Rochelle who entered the race last October, told JI. Vedat Gashi, a real estate attorney and Westchester County legislator in Yorktown who filed with the Federal Election Commission just a few weeks ago, also took issue with Bowman’s about-face. “It feels more like an appeasement of, I think, the most extreme elements,” he said, “than it does the best interest of this country and our national security.”
Fluid field: Gashi, 43, and Casanova, 50 — both of whom lean moderate — are so far the only publicly declared challengers competing in the June primary. But the field remains fluid, and at least one other candidate is expected to jump in. Michael Gerald, a senior pastor at Shiloh Church in Tuckahoe who serves as deputy commissioner at the Westchester County Department of Correction, has already begun gathering petitions in the district and is expected to file as soon as this week, according to a well-placed source familiar with the campaign who spoke with JI on Wednesday.
Eye on Israel: The two candidates described themselves as strong supporters of Israel and say they are in favor of continued U.S. security assistance for the Jewish state. Gashi and Casanova told JI they would have voted in favor of supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, as Bowman did last September. Both challengers rejected the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel, suggesting that the movement — which Bowman also says he opposes — is at times antisemitic.
‘Take my word’: Bowman’s opponents emphasized that his reversal last month was one issue they would work to ensure voters do not soon forget. “He supported and, all of a sudden, did he just discover these elements of the bill now?” Gashi said. “Presumably, he would have been aware of them at some point earlier.” Casanova drew a somewhat more pointed distinction. “The biggest difference between Jamaal and me,” he told JI, “is that you can take my word to the bank.”
Senators to urge Blinken to work to shut down UNHRC Israel investigation
A bipartisan group of senators is soliciting signatures on a letter calling on the State Department to work to end the U.N. Human Rights Council’s permanent Commission of Inquiry investigating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Take charge: The legislators, led by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), called on Secretary of State Tony Blinken to lead “a multinational effort in the Council and in the UN” against the COI, which was created in May 2021 in the wake of the conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza.
Quotable: “The COI is the latest endeavor by UNHRC to demonize the only Jewish state and is likely to further fuel antisemitism worldwide,” the senators wrote. “Therefore, we urge you to act upon the Administration’s commitment to defend Israel from discriminatory treatment at the Human Rights Council and throughout the UN system. We also urge the U.S. to firmly raise its voice and concerns during the current UNHRC session, the first meeting in several years in which the United States will be a member of the council.”
At issue: The letter notes that the COI’s mandate gives investigators broad authority to examine any time period and any location inside Israel or the Palestinian territories, and does not acknowledge the May 2021 rocket attacks against Israel or Israel’s right to self-defense. It describes “this one-sided approach” as “consistent with UNHRC’s continuing bias against Israel and the disproportionate use of resources in an ongoing campaign to disparage, discredit and denounce Israel.”
John Hancock: The current signatories to the letter are Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and it has the support of AIPAC.
Bonus: During a press conference on Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) introduced a resolution urging International Criminal Court member states to petition the court to investigate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Pressed on the U.S.’s non-membership in the ICC, Graham added, “This court doesn’t make sense when it comes to America or Israel. It makes perfect sense when it comes to places where there is no rule of law.”
Zeldin, House Republicans reintroduces anti-BDS bill
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) will reintroduce legislation on Thursday aimed at combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The legislation is backed by 46 cosponsors, including House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX).
Blocked: The legislation prohibits participation in boycotts or requests for boycotts of “a country which is friendly to the United States” enforced by foreign governments or international organizations.
No help: It also amends existing law to bar U.S. persons and companies and the federal and state governments from providing information to foreign governments and international organizations that assists boycotts of friendly countries. In this vein, the legislation labels the U.N. Human Rights Council’s creation of a database of companies doing business in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as an act of BDS. The legislation also specifically refers to the European Union.
Quotable: “Too many, even in the halls of Congress, have emboldened antisemitic and anti-Israel rhetoric by accepting the BDS movement,” Zeldin, who is running for governor of New York, said in a statement. “This legislation not only reinforces congressional opposition to the BDS movement, but protects American companies from being forced to provide information to international organizations that peddle this hate-filled movement, and holds those who attempt to violate that protection accountable.”
History: Zeldin has been working on the bill’s reintroduction since at least last September. Similar legislation was originally introduced in 2018 by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), picking up 58 Senate cosponsors — 42 Republicans, 15 Democrats and one Independent — and 292 House cosponsors — 216 Republicans and 76 Democrats. Zeldin introduced it again in 2020, picking up 63 Republican cosponsors and one Democrat. In 2020, it languished in committee and never saw further consideration.
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🇺🇦 Land of Violence: In The New York Times, Lev Golinkin reflects on his childhood in Ukraine, and on the waves of violence perpetrated against Ukrainians by other nations since before the country’s creation. “It was impossible to grow up in Ukraine without witnessing the violence the land had seen. We clambered around old tanks proudly displayed in parks and squares, lumbering monuments to World War II. We learned of this history at dinner tables and in elementary schools, in stories passed down of famine and invasions, from the Mongol destruction of Kyivan Rus in the 13th century to the Nazi attack in 1941 to the Soviet purges. By the 1980s the country was in many ways a giant mass grave, a grave the size of Texas. And yet we were not encouraged to see it as a Ukrainian story, but as a Soviet one, a collective amnesia pushed out from the Kremlin across the Soviet states.” [NYTimes]
💰 Money Talks: New York magazine’s Kevin Dugan talked to former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein about the ways in which global financial institutions are tied to the sanctions being placed on Russian leaders and oligarchs. “Twice during our conversation, Blankfein noted the worst consequences that come with money laundering, bringing up 9/11 twice and how hidden money can finance terrorism — something he equated to Russia’s actions. ‘If you’re asking me, Should we make it easier to launder and conceal money? I would say that a lot of experiences, ranging from the terrorists of 9/11 to situations we have now, suggest that you’re just helping bad behavior if you make things too opaque,’ he said. ‘As a guy who would like to not see the World Trade Center blown up again or people steal vast amounts of wealth and conceal it forever, I think somebody has to be able to surveil who’s getting paid so that you know you’re not paying the North Koreans or Al Qaeda, who then use it to wreak havoc.’” [NYMag]
🦊 Biting Fox: The Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr spotlights Fox News host Mark Levin, who has used his platform — which includes a popular radio show — to criticize his Fox News colleagues. “Levin’s willingness to dump on his own colleagues has burnished his reputation as a sort of rogue independent who balks at the governing rules of the corporate media ecosystem — and a wild card who could end up playing a big role in the future of the conservative movement. ‘You see, this isn’t a game to me,’ Levin said on his radio show on June 24. ‘I’m not positioning myself. This is deadly serious. The real world matters here.’” [WashPost]
Around the Web
🤭 Backpedal: Kentucky state Rep. Danny Bentley apologized after claiming on the state House floor that an abortion drug was developed as Zyklon B by a Jewish person during World War II. He further claimed that Jewish women have less cervical cancer than “any other race” because they “only have one sex partner.”
🙏 Plea for Help: Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, issued an impassioned plea for support from the rest of the world to “ensure that history does not repeat itself — so that our future does not echo Europe’s darkest time.”
⚽ On the Market: Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich announced he will sell the soccer team and donate “all net proceeds from the sale” to the “victims of the war in Ukraine.” Meanwhile, several Israel-based groups, including Yad Vashem, have asked U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides that Washington not sanction Abramovich, warning that such a move could negatively impact Jewish institutions of which Abramovich is a patron.
🎯 Target: More Oligarchs: The White House is planning to expand the number of Russian oligarchs facing sanctions, some of whom were targeted by European Union sanctions earlier this week.
🇦🇪 UAE at U.N.: The United Arab Emirates abstained from a U.S.-led U.N. Security Council vote condemning Russia last week reportedly because UAE officials are said to be frustrated by the Biden administration’s slow response to recent Houthi attacks on the Gulf nation and reluctance to redesignate the group as terrorists.
👩 Rite of Passage: Ahead of the 100th anniversary of the first bat mitzvah, Menachem Wecker explores the history of the coming-of-age tradition.
📦 Package Sent: Nine looted artifacts that were owned by American financier Michael Steinhardt were returned to Jordan as part of an effort to return 180 items from around the region — including more than two dozen from Israel — sold to Steinhardt by antiquities dealers.
🤝 Never Again: The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany announced that Berlin will give an additional $720 million to help support elderly Holocaust survivors, which will be distributed by hundreds of organizations across the globe.
🥨🥙 On Tap: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in Israel this week, said that the entire Israeli cabinet will visit Germany for diplomatic talks at an unspecified date.
💻 Cybersecurity Deal: Israeli and U.S. officials, including Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary for Policy Rob Silvers, signed a series of agreements in Jerusalem that will deepen cooperation in the field of cybersecurity.
💸 Shekel Shakeup: The Bank of Israel said that adding a digital currency would not harm Israel’s banking system, as it weighs rolling out a digital shekel.
📺 Happy (Israeli) Days: Actor Henry Winkler, who is in Israel this week, was tapped to star in the Israeli/U.S. crossover comedy “Chanshi.”
📡 On Air: Armoza Formats will become the Israeli production division for the British television company ITV Studios.
🕯️ Remembering: Photojournalist Sharon Wohlmuth, whose book “Sisters” stayed on The New York Times’ bestseller list for more than a year, died at 75.
Pic of the Day
Future diplomats from Israel and the UAE pose during a conference in Abu Dhabi aimed at forging personal relationships between the diplomatic corps of the two allies. Attendees included AJC leaders David Harris and Jason Isaacson, who participated in a session.
President of CBS News until last year, Susan Zirinsky turns 70…
Australian property developer, colloquially known as “High-Rise Harry,” builder of more than 75,000 residential units, Harry Triguboff turns 89… Former justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, Dalia Dorner turns 88… Professor emeritus at Princeton, author of 27 books and the editor emeritus of Dissent magazine, Michael Laban Walzer turns 87… Researcher in Yiddish language at Sweden’s Lund University’s Centre for Languages and Literature, Henrik Lewis-Guttermann turns 73… Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, Ron Chernow turns 73… Retired chief investment officer of Neuberger Berman, past president of AIPAC, Michael Kassen turns 69… Fashion designer and founder of an eponymous publicly traded company, Steve Madden turns 64… NPR personality and the host and producer of the radio and television show “This American Life,” Ira Glass turns 63… Former director of policy for New York State, David Yassky turns 58… Former MLB pitcher, then a pitching coach, his 557 appearances rank second in career games pitched by a Jewish pitcher, Scott David Radinsky turns 54… Co-founder and co-president of Clarity Capital and co-founder and trustee of the Natan Fund, David Steinhardt turns 53… SVP and general counsel at Eli Lilly and Company, Anat Hakim turns 53… Founder of Bunk1 and a co-owner of the Miami Marlins, Ari Jack Ackerman turns 51… Assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine focused on autism-related genetics, Brett S. Abrahams, Ph.D turns 49… Israeli screenwriter, Efrat Abramov turns 42… British rabbi who has run for mayor of London (2016) and mayor of Manchester (2017), Shneur Zalman Odze turns 41… Assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and an adjunct professor of law at NYU, Danielle R. Sassoon turns 36… Communications manager for Uber, Freddi Goldstein turns 32… Member of AJR, an indie pop multi-instrumentalist trio, together with his two brothers, Ryan Metzger turns 28…