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Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright died on Wednesday, her family said in a statement. We spoke to former colleagues about the barrier-breaking diplomat. More below.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee postponed scheduled committee votes on Deborah Lipstadt and Barbara Leaf until next Tuesday due to an attendance problem in the room, according to a Senate aide.
Two committee Democrats, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Chris Coons (D-DE), were attending the Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has COVID-19. Democrats were concerned they would not have the votes to confirm Lipstadt or Leaf without the members in attendance.
Only two Republicans on the committee have said publicly they intend to vote for Lipstadt as the State Department’s envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Jim Risch (R-ID) made clear that they intended to oppose her. The other Republican committee members declined to tell JI how they planned to vote or did not respond to requests for comment.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Risch, the committee’s ranking member, again raised concerns about Lipstadt’s qualifications. He led committee Republicans’ monthslong blockade of Lipstadt due to her Twitter history, particularly a tweet accusing Johnson of “white supremacy/nationalism.”
Asked later about his concerns — which stem from tweets by Lipstadt — Risch said, “When you say it’s just about the tweets, you’re understating the issue here. A person who’s an ambassador’s stock and trade is diplomacy. Anyone who would put out tweets like that, call people names, make accusations against them simply is, in my judgment, not qualified to be in the diplomatic corps.”
He denied rumors that he has been urging his colleagues not to vote for Lipstadt, saying, “It’s up to them.”
The Idaho senator also appeared exasperated that he was being asked about Lipstadt, initially telling JI, “Ah gosh, I’ve given this interview 100 times, you sure you want to do it again?”
Madeleine Albright’s foreign policy was forged ‘in the shadow of WWII’
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who did not discover until later in life that her family was Jewish, died on Wednesday, her family announced in a statement. Albright, the first woman to hold the State Department’s top job, was 84. Her daughter Anne said the cause was cancer. Albright, who was born in Prague to a Czech diplomat, followed in her father’s footsteps, becoming first the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations before serving as secretary of state in President Bill Clinton’s administration.
Deep understanding: The family received asylum in the United States after fleeing the communist regime in what was then Czechoslovakia, a formative experience that shaped Albright’s approach to similar refugee crises around the world for the rest of her life. “What was most impressive, I thought, about Madeleine was [that] she could talk about foreign policy in ways that went way beyond what too often is just a very small inner circle. She could talk as immigrants do,” Ann Lewis, a former Clinton administration official who first met Albright in 1984 when she served as a foreign policy advisor to vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro and Lewis was a senior Democratic National Committee official, told Jewish Insider. “She never took the United States for granted. She never took our power for granted.”
Breaking barriers: “As one of the first women in high-level U.S. foreign policy posts, she stood out for her toughness on policy and her fearlessness in her views and her ability to attract media attention,” the author and historian Stephen Schlesinger, who is a fellow at the Century Foundation, said in an email to JI. “It was a real breakthrough that a woman could hold this position, that a woman would bring the credibility and the power of the United States with her,” Lewis noted.
‘Munich mindset’: Albright often described herself as having a “Munich mindset” — which set her apart from many diplomats in the next generation, including her friend and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. “She explained to me once [that] the shadow of Munich compelled her into a certain mindset, a sort of risk readiness, a willingness to stand up for freedom and confront authoritarians through the use of military force,” Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told JI. “Whereas some of her younger colleagues, she would say, grew up with the ‘Vietnam mindset.’ And Vietnam generated, to a large degree, a certain amount of risk aversion.” That mindset, Miller, who worked under Albright at the State Department in the 1990s, said, “explained a lot of her policies during her years as secretary of state, as well as her advocacy at the U.N. during some very critical years where you had horrendous events taking place, particularly in Bosnia.”
Common ground: Abe Foxman, the former director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he was first introduced to Albright prior to her tenure as secretary of state, and they remained in touch while she was in office. “She was outspoken on antisemitism as part of authoritarian societies and outside. Staunch advocate and defender of democracy and its values — partially because of her and her parents’ experiences,” he said. Foxman said his relationship with Albright was “solidified” when details of her family’s Jewish background emerged. After she became secretary of state, Albright learned that her parents had converted to Catholicism, as a means of protection, during WWII and that 26 members of her family, including three grandparents, were likely killed in the Holocaust. Foxman — who himself was raised Catholic for a time during the Holocaust — said he counseled Albright on how to handle the revelations.
Abraham Accords Games to spotlight soccer diplomacy at Dubai Expo
As Expo 2020 Dubai comes to a close at the end of March, the United Arab Emirates will host a soccer tournament between teams from the Abraham Accords’ signatory countries, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides announced on Wednesday, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. Teams from Israel, Morocco, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates will face off in Dubai in the inaugural “Abraham Accords Games,” an effort being spearheaded by Nides and the UAE’s ambassador to Israel, Mohamed Al Khaja. The event will also feature a “dinner celebration” with chefs from each country.
Make it last: “I fundamentally believe that travel, tourism [and] culture is the way to cement, in people’s psyche, the importance of these Abraham Accords,” Nides told reporters in a virtual press conference on Wednesday. Since arriving in Israel in December, Nides has emerged as one of the most vocal proponents of the Abraham Accords — the 2020 pact that normalized ties between Israel, the UAE, Morocco, Bahrain and Sudan — within President Joe Biden’s administration.
Key cooperation: The tournament will take place on March 29, and the delegations from each country will also visit the others’ booths at the Expo. The culture ministers from each of the four countries will be in attendance. After the event, they will sign a “cultural cooperation declaration” with the goal of “fomenting and just continuing to advance the idea that cultural cooperation is the key to success to the Abraham Accords,” said Nides.
Advertising the Accords: With the event taking place in an international hub like Dubai, Nides said he hopes the event will show other countries the benefit of joining the Abraham Accords. “It just shows what happens when there’s cooperation,” he explained. “Obviously, the more people understand each other, the more ability there is to work together, not only on playing football or eating food, but how do we do economic ties? How do we do energy ties? How do we do security ties? How do we do cooperation?”
Oz defends dual Turkish citizenship and shift on fracking
Pennsylvania Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz said that he doesn’t think renouncing his Turkish citizenship is important but that he would do so if he wins the general election because he doesn’t “want it to be a distraction,” he said in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch on Wednesday. “I don’t think it’s important to do it. It’s certainly a nuisance issue for me,” he said. Oz’s leading opponent in the Republican primary, hedge fund manager Dave McCormick, has sought to suggest that Oz’s dual citizenship poses a challenge to his ability to securely handle classified material as a senator.
Complicated conflict: His approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be “primarily peace through strength,” Oz explained, to “make sure that Israel is protected.” He said a two-state solution is “challenged,” given the lack of strong leadership on the Palestinian side. “If you could make a Palestinian state with strong leadership, that would be wonderful. But look what happened with Gaza.” Instead, Oz argued, the U.S. should take a more regional approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “You don’t really have a [Palestinian] counterparty to make a stable connection with,” said Oz. “You do have a counterparty in the UAE. You have a counterparty in Morocco. So you have countries that you can create bilateral agreements with, and I think that creates a web that over time will stabilize the region.”
Fracking flip-flop: Recently, as gas prices have soared due to inflation and Western sanctions on Russian oil, Oz has spoken often about the need to expand hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas in Pennsylvania — and come under fire for past columns he wrote in which he described the health risks of fracking. He attributed those columns to his colleague and said he didn’t see them before they were published. “I’m not against green energy solutions. That’s fantastic. But I don’t believe that the rhetoric around green energy is honest,” Oz told JI. “We’re not going to achieve green energy on the timelines desired with the Green New Deal. There’s also a dishonest narrative around natural gas.”
Standings: A Fox News poll from earlier this month showed McCormick leading in the primary race with 24% support, while Oz placed second with 15%. Conservative commentator Kathy Barnette and real estate developer Jeff Bartos each had 9%, followed by former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands with 6%. Voters go to the polls on May 17.
Israel’s first ambassador to Morocco is building people-to-people ties
When Israel’s newly installed ambassador to Morocco, David Govrin, recently addressed a gathering of young Israelis and Moroccans in Marrakesh, he summed up his first 14 months on the job by recalling a conversation with a local official: “He asked me if I’d encountered any problems so far; I told him I had one big problem,” Govrin joked. “The food is simply too good here.” While there is no doubt that delectable and intoxicating Moroccan fare, which is also wildly popular in Israel thanks to the nearly a half-million Jews of Moroccan heritage who reside in the Jewish state, might not be good for the waistline, Govrin told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash in an interview last week that his answer was the truth – he has received a warm and genuine welcome since arriving in the Arab country in January 2021.
Warm peace: Govrin became Israel’s first ambassador to Morocco just a month after the two countries agreed to establish full and open ties in December 2020, and has been working to both establish a fully functional diplomatic mission and build people-to-people ties that will enhance the already warm peace that is rapidly growing between the countries. A veteran of Israel’s foreign service and a fluent Arabic speaker, Govrin understands the difference between a peace that is warm over one that is not. A former ambassador to Egypt, from 2016 to 2019 – Govrin also served as first secretary in Cairo between 1994-1997 – he said Israel’s relations with the two Arab states differ wildly.
Beyond expectation: During his short time in Morocco, Govrin has focused on building cultural and people-to-people relationships. From a young leaders’ seminar last month in Marrakesh to a Jewish women’s festival in the Mediterranean city of Tangiers to mark International Women’s Day, he said it has been easy. “Before I arrived, my expectations were at a certain level,” Govrin admitted. “After arriving, however, I noticed that the reality was way beyond that. There’s so much enthusiasm and the people here are very excited and eager to visit Israel.”
Jewish heritage: What sets Morocco apart from other Arab states, Govrin explained, is that “the Moroccan people fully understand the importance of the peace with Israel” and feel connected to Jews because of the community’s long presence in the country. “They have a positive and forthcoming approach to Jews because the Jews were an integral part of Moroccan society, history and heritage for many centuries,” he continued. “This has helped us to push the relationship forward.”
Strong cooperation: For Israel, Morocco is both a natural ally and a strategic asset exactly because it sits at the gateway to two continents, and, said Govrin, the Jewish state is utilizing the renewed relationship to expand cooperation on multiple levels – diplomatic, economic and cultural, as well as security cooperation. In the short time since he arrived in Rabat, Morocco’s capital, he has already welcomed a slew of top Israeli officials from Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to Defense Minister Benny Gantz to Economy Minister Orna Barbivai.
🪖 End Game: In The Evening Standard, the Atlantic Council’s Ben Judah considers the ways in which Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will end. “Israeli officials are quick to remind their interlocutors that wars are settled on the battlefield not the negotiating room and they can have many twists and turns. Looking at the battlefield there are plenty of directions where things could change dramatically. Russia might be able to crush the last resistance in Mariupol and move to encircle the Ukrainian army in the Donbas which would be a huge blow to Kyiv. Similarly, Ukraine might be able to inflict serious damage to the Russian army outside its capital, rendering it incapable of fully surrounding the territory. Wars of this scale are not games of chess whose outcomes can be predicted soon after their openings.” [EveningStandard]
🇹🇷 Russian Refuge: Al-Monitor’s Amberin Zaman suggests that Turkey could become a safe haven for Russians looking for respite from the sanctions imposed by the EU and others amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “Turkey, a member of the NATO alliance and a formal candidate for membership of the EU, has not joined in on sanctions against Russia. It has instead sought to carve out a middle ground designed to keep both Russia and the anti-Kremlin coalition adequately assuaged. The question of whether this tenuous balance is sustainable or not is a matter of persistent debate… Turkey has strong trade and financial ties with Russia, and there is mounting concern that Russian companies will use Turkish entities to continue conducting their overseas business.” [AlMonitor]
🇶🇦 Doha Drop-in: Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp commanders were in attendance at the Doha International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference in Qatar this week, Reuters‘ Andrew Mills reports. “Commanders of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) drank tea, nibbled dates and displayed models of Iranian missiles at a defence show in Qatar, a Gulf Arab state that is home to the largest U.S. military base in the region. Their presence was striking when other Sunni Muslim Gulf states and Israel are alarmed at the prospect of the United States removing its terrorist designation of the IRGC as part of efforts to revive a nuclear pact with Iran.” [Reuters]
🎭 Broadway Beat: The New York Times’ Alexis Soloski profiles actress Debra Messing as she rehearses for “Birthday Candles,” a Broadway production set to premiere in April. “Messing wanted to be a musical theater performer, a triple threat. Her dancing, she said, is merely adequate, so she tops out at a double threat. After college at Brandeis and graduate school at New York University, she talked herself into a lead role on the sitcom ‘Ned and Stacey.’ Michael J. Weithorn, the creator, hadn’t thought that she came across as Jewish enough or neurotic enough. But Messing is, by her own proud admission, both of these things.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
⏸️ Sanctions Hold: The White House National Security Council reportedly told the Treasury Department to hold off on imposing sanctions against Russian-Israeli businessman Roman Abramovich, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told President Joe Biden that Abramovich could be useful in negotiations with Russia.
🛫 Caught Off Guard: Biden administration officials were blindsided by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s trip to the United Arab Emirates last week, and first learned of the visit from media reports, according to Axios.
📱 Eye on Moscow: Israel refused to grant licenses to the NSO Group to sell its controversial Pegasus spyware to Ukraine and Estonia in recent years, concerned that the technology would damage Jerusalem’s relations with officials in Moscow.
👨 Just a Minute: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) put a hold on Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s nomination to be ambassador to India following allegations of sexual harassment that were leveled against a top Garcetti aide.
✍️ Sign on the Dotted Line: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed two bills — one codifying the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, and the other expanding legislation targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel — into law on Wednesday.
🎤 Party in the USA: Goldman Sachs CEO and occasional electronic dance musician David Solomon will perform at this summer’s Lollapalooza festival in Chicago.
📘 Reading Recall: Dutch publisher Ambo Anthos announced it will stop publishing The Betrayal of Anne Frank, a new book that has come under criticism for concluding, based on circumstantial evidence, that a Jewish notary betrayed the Frank to Nazi authorities.
🗳️ BDS Vote: The Middle East Studies Association voted overwhelmingly to pass a resolution supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
🎞️ Silver Screen: The New York Times interviews Oscar nominee Jay Rosenblatt, whose documentary, “When We Were Bullies,” looks back on a childhood memory of joining other peers and bullying a classmate.
🕍 He Who Saves One Life: The Washington Post spotlights the efforts of Kyiv’s Brodsky Synagogue and its leader, Rabbi Moshe Azman, who have spent $2 million to help bring Ukrainians from around the country to Kyiv.
🤝 Plane Pact: Israeli and Moroccan officials inked an agreement to cooperate on civilian aerospace projects.
⚖️ Whole Truth: A close confidant of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu testified that Netanyahu directed him to take regulatory action that would benefit former Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch.
📰 Transition: Dafna Linzer is joining Politico as the publication’s top editor.
🕯️ Remembering: Vera Gissing, one of more than 600 Czech children taken to England on the eve of the Holocaust on a Kindertransport-inspired endeavor organized by Nicholas Winton, died at 93.
Pic of the Day
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright shakes hands with then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat at the start of a meeting at an Israeli military base near the Gaza Strip in October 1998.
Senior correspondent for Jewish Insider, Ruth Marks Eglash…
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