👋 Good Wednesday morning!
Is Israel headed for new elections? MK Idit Silman quit Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s fragile coalition this morning, ending Bennett’s one-seat majority that has held since last June, and potentially sending Israel to its fifth election in just over three years.
“I am ending my membership in the coalition and I will continue to try to persuade my colleagues to return home and to form a right-wing government,” the senior lawmaker, a member of Bennett’s Yamina party, wrote in a statement. “I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way.”
Fifteen House Democrats will hold a press conference today expressing their concerns about a new Iran nuclear deal. Many in the group, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), have already voiced objections, but two members — Reps. Val Demmings (D-FL) and close Biden ally Brendan Boyle (D-PA) — have not previously spoken out about the renewed Iran deal.
Boyle and Demmings — who is leaving the House for a Senate run in Florida — bring the count of House Democrats who have raised concerns about the new deal to 19.
Boyle told JI Tuesday night that he’s concerned about some of the reports he’s seen about the new deal, but said it’s difficult to tell what is actually part of the deal as it stands.
Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), who has previously raised his own concerns about a potential new agreement, said at an AIPAC event yesterday that lawyers in the administration are working to develop a pathway to avoid congressional review of a new deal as “an amendment to the JCPOA which would be exempt from congressional review,” a notion Torres said is at odds with the “clear intent” of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.
After the event, Torres slammed a J Street official for “a cheap shot” taking his comments out of context by “reframing empathy for a US ally as though it were a form of ‘dual loyalty.’” Torres added, “The fact that I might hold an opinion that differs from yours does not mean I care about America any less than you do.”House Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans are also holding a press conference this afternoon regarding the deal.
The Senate passed Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Maggie Hassan’s (D-NH) Pray Safe Act last night by unanimous consent. The bill, supported by various Jewish community groups, would create a centralized database for religious institutions with information on federal security programs and resources.
One American diplomat’s latest mission: tackling global antisemitism
While Deborah Lipstadt was enmeshed in Capitol Hill chaos during her monthslong confirmation process to be special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, Ludovic Hood was in his State Department office across town, reading her books. As a senior Foreign Service officer, Hood’s career has taken him around the world, with stops in Paris, Bahrain and Qatar. But his first year-plus in his current role, as a senior advisor to the special envoy’s office, was spent in Foggy Bottom, diving deep into the history of the world’s oldest hatred. Hood’s career, and his position in the antisemitism office, provide a window into a policy team that is roundly praised by the U.S. Jewish community but whose work — the day-to-day of how combating antisemitism fits into American diplomacy — is not widely understood, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch writes. So what does an antisemitism-fighting diplomat actually do?
Fresh eyes: Like Hood’s overseas postings, his latest role as a senior advisor in the special envoy’s office has opened his eyes to new issues and diverse perspectives: Unlike Lipstadt, the noted Holocaust historian who was confirmed by the Senate last week as the special envoy, Hood is not Jewish. Many of the officers now working in the antisemitism office are not. The deputy special envoy, Aaron Keyak, told JI that this diversity is a crucial aspect of what makes American diplomacy unique. “It’s not about being one religion or another, or having one particular set of experiences or background. It’s about serving your government,” said Keyak, a political appointee who led Jewish outreach for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in 2020.
Immigrant story: Born and raised in the U.K., Hood came to the U.S. as a teenager to attend boarding school. “I was 9 or 10 years old in England, and I was unduly or preposterously intrigued by the seemingly quixotic endeavor to take back these islands on the other side of the world,” Hood recalled, referencing England’s war in the Falkland Islands in 1982. He ended up staying and becoming a citizen, ultimately so taken with the country that he joined the Foreign Service as an Arabic language specialist in 2006 after a few years working in finance.
Fertile territory: Behind Hood’s desk hangs an old map of “Persia and Arabia,” alerting visitors to Hood’s portfolio on the antisemitism beat. He is focused on working with Arab countries on education around antisemitism, Judaism and the Holocaust. In a region that has been transformed by the Abraham Accords, the Middle East is now surprisingly fertile territory for the type of work happening in the antisemitism envoy’s office. “I certainly get the feeling that this administration at the highest levels has been quite clear, too, that openings have been generated or presented by the Abraham Accords that allow for discussions about issues my office cares about in ways that were unthinkable up until a couple years ago,” said Hood.
It’s personal: Hood has a particularly personal understanding of those changes. More than a decade ago, he was a political officer serving in Bahrain during the Arab Spring. He and his family had to leave the country quickly due to antisemitic threats directed at him and his wife, who is Jewish, following a diplomatic controversy. “I think having served in the Middle East and on Middle East issues, and with a Jewish wife and daughters who have lived with me in three conservative Muslim majority countries, has all contributed to how I think about these issues,” noted Hood.
Summer Lee pushes back against charges that she’s anti-Israel
In a wide-ranging and occasionally tense discussion with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Community Relations Council on Monday evening, Summer Lee, a progressive state legislator and leading Democratic primary candidate in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, publicly clarified her views on a host of Middle East foreign policy issues for the first time since launching her campaign, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
‘Safe haven’: The hourlong exchange, live-streamed on Facebook, was of particular interest to Jewish voters who have expressed reservations over Lee’s affiliation with the far left as well as social media comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that have drawn scrutiny. But in a conversation with Laura Cherner, who directs the Community Relations Council, Lee, 34, rejected such claims, noting that she “absolutely” believes in Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state. “What’s more,” she said, “I also understand and really truly believe the need that we have for Jewish folks globally to have a safe haven.”
Adding context: Lee found herself in choppier waters while addressing a tweet in which she had criticized American politicians who “use the refrain ‘Israel has the right to defend itself’” last May amid escalating violence between Israel and Hamas. In response, Lee argued that there was a “very specific context around” her remarks, pointing to an accompanying tweet where she had drawn a parallel between Israel’s actions and the killing of Trayvon Martin. “It’s important that we talk about what that context was, and what we were seeing and what I was seeing as a Black woman, somebody who has also experienced oppression.”
Views on aid: Lee did not explicitly endorse supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, but she said it is “important that we prioritize” assistance “for our allies” when it comes to “legitimate defense.” She said she is in favor of conditioning U.S. security assistance to Israel. Lee also weighed in on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. While she emphasized that “it is not a movement that I’m personally a part of,” Lee opposed “efforts to criminalize a tactic that is a peaceful protest.”
Addressing ‘apartheid’: The congressional hopeful was less sure-footed when asked if she believed Israel is an apartheid state. “I don’t necessarily think that I know the answer to that,” Lee demurred. “I am very proud of the relationships that I’ve built here in our Jewish communities, and I’m also very proud of the relationships that I’ve been building with the Palestinian community, and listening to those stories and those concerns and those considerations,” she said. “I think that it’s incredibly important that we do not lose the need to protect and stand up for Palestinians, too.”
North Carolina to hold off on action against Unilever until end of 2022
North Carolina is holding off – for now – from divesting from Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, even as other states take punitive actions following the ice cream maker’s decision last July to end its contract in Israel, according to a spokesperson for the state treasurer’s office, Jonah Kaplan reports for Jewish Insider.
Wait and see: “The Department of State Treasurer has reviewed the statement by Ben & Jerry’s in light of North Carolina Divestment From Companies Boycotting Israel Act,” a spokesman for State Treasurer Dale Folwell told JI. “The Ben & Jerry’s statement described an action that they plan to take at the end of 2022, but have not taken. We have determined that we should not take any further action at present. We plan to re-evaluate after the time of Ben & Jerry’s action, and we will continue to monitor the situation.” According to the state treasurer’s office, North Carolina currently invests $62.9 million in Unilever stocks and bonds.
State by state: Gov. Roy Cooper signed the anti-boycott legislation in 2017; the bill, which requires state institutions to cease all contracts with companies that boycott Israeli companies and/or products made in Israel, was passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. The law also prohibits any future engagement with those companies. In March, Colorado became the latest state to divest shares of Unilever from its pension funds, a move worth $42 million. Seven states, including New York, New Jersey, Florida and Illinois, have also either divested or announced intentions to sell their Unilever stocks and bonds.
Tarheel ties: North Carolina, and its Research Triangle Region in particular, is home to several tech, biotech and pharmaceutical companies that work with similar entities in Israel. The North Carolina Economic Development Partnership reports Israeli investments in North Carolina total more than $590 million and led to the creation of more than 1,000 jobs. “State leaders are supportive of diversity and of Jewish people in our state. I compliment them on that,” Judah Segal, president of the Raleigh-Cary Jewish Community Relations Council, told JI. “I’m not concerned because ultimately North Carolina will divest from Unilever, or Ben & Jerry’s will ultimately change course. Not everything happens immediately, but in the right time the right thing will happen.”
🤝 Warning from the West: In the Wall Street Journal, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Mark Dubowitz and Matthew Zweig warn of the ways in which Tehran and Moscow could collaborate to reduce the effect of Western sanctions on both countries. “Tehran could teach Moscow how to replicate this illicit financial architecture, or the clerical regime could serve as the Kremlin’s broker, taking a cut of the covert trade it facilitates on Russia’s behalf. The combination of Russian and Iranian expertise in illicit financial activities could produce the world’s most sophisticated and expansive sanctions-evasion network. If Western sanctions lose their bite, the pressure on Moscow to end its invasion of Ukraine and other threats would diminish.” [WSJ]
💰 Money Man: Forbes’ Matt Durot looks at the business successes of Josh Kushner, the first member of his famous family to make the magazine’s list of the world’s richest people. “After graduating in 2008 he spent a year on Goldman’s private equity desk (focused on distressed debt during the financial crisis). He then enrolled at Harvard Business School in 2009 and started angel investing his Goldman earnings in companies like Kickstarter and GroupMe, while most of his HBS class worked as summer interns. That decision paid off as he caught the attention of Joel Cutler, cofounder of venture capital firm General Catalyst Partners, who convinced Josh to start his own fund and vouched for him when he did. Cutler and General Catalyst seeded Thrive’s initial $5 million funding round in 2010 and introduced Josh to other investors. ‘I told everyone that if they didn’t give money to this young guy, they were out of their minds,’ Cutler told Forbes in 2017. ‘And if it didn’t work out, I’d make good on it.’” [Forbes]
🇷🇺 Putin Problem: In The Atlantic, Ben Jacobs reports from the fringe right-wing “Up From Chaos” conference in Washington, D.C., where the topic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine loomed large. “The event wasn’t a Putin apologia like those found in some corners of the right. Instead, the phrase of the day seemed to be “Putin is bad, but …” The attendees, who included paleocons, libertarians, and hard-core MAGA acolytes, offered variations on that tune according to their policy preferences: Putin is bad, but we don’t want a nuclear war. Putin is bad, but why should we trust the American foreign-policy establishment? Putin is bad, but the media is in thrall to the U.S. intelligence apparatus. The broad consensus: Putin is bad, but why is that our problem?” [TheAtlantic]
🪧 Senate Sights: Bloomberg’s Joshua Green spotlights Pennsylvania Senate candidate David McCormick’s transformation from hedge fund manager to politician as McCormick leads the Republican pack ahead of the state’s May primary. “With the race entering its final weeks, the challenge before McCormick will be to woo Trump without torching his electability come fall. McCormick’s supporters believe he can do it, citing the example of Glenn Youngkin — another wealthy finance executive — who was elected governor of Virginia last year. But Youngkin became the Republican candidate after being chosen by caucus, rather than in a contested primary, meaning he never had to face a fusillade of negative ads and character attacks like the one coming at McCormick. Youngkin mostly dodged the tough questions that increasingly drive a fault line through the Republican Party and alienate independents and Democrats.” [Bloomberg]
Around the Web
🎙️ Ivanka’s Turn: Ivanka Trump testified virtually before the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, days after her husband, Jared Kushner, appeared before the committee.
🗳️ PA Poll: A new poll from a super PAC supporting David McCormick’s Senate campaign shows the former Bridgewater Associates CEO leading Dr. Mehmet Oz 22%-16%.
📅 Mitten Moves: Michigan Democrats are planning to make a pitch to the Democratic National Committee to be the first site of a presidential nominating contest in 2024.
🇫🇷 French Election Twist: Newly released video of a French Jewish man being chased by a group of assailants before being fatally struck by a train — which was shared by far-right presidential candidate Éric Zemmour — has ignited claims of antisemitism days before the country’s election.
🍩 Doughnut Dollars: Philadelphia chef Mike Solomonov’s Federal Donuts received a growth equity investment from NewSpring and will open up a number of new locations in the Mid-Atlantic region.
🌆 Staff Strike: A union representing more than 30,000 New York City apartment building employees is threatening a strike over sick leave and vacation days if a new agreement is not reached before April 20.
🎵 DJ Dave: The Financial Times sent tracks from Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon — who DJs as a hobby and will be at Lollapalooza this summer — to dance music aficionados for a blind test.
👰 Badeken Like Beckham: Preparations are underway at the Palm Beach, Fla., estate of Nelson Peltz ahead of his daughter Nicola’s weekend wedding to Brooklyn Beckham.
🫓 Seder Stories:The New York Times examines how Black Jews are incorporating Black culture into Passover seders to celebrate their freedom.
👉 Never Again: Holocaust expert Eugene Finkel accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine, following reports that Russian soldiers killed 400 Bucha residents as they withdrew from the city.
⛑️ Bright Light: Oliwia Dabrowska, who played the girl in the red coat in the 1993 film “Schindler’s List,” is now volunteering in Poland aiding Ukrainian refugees.
🗣️ Called Out: Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemned Russian “war crimes” in Ukraine.
⛽ Gas Gouge: Saudi oil producer Aramco is set to raise prices amid a surge in demand resulting from the crisis in Ukraine.
🛳️ Ship Struggle: Authorities are struggling to seize boats tied to Russians who are under sanctions, a result of conflicting accounts of ownership and confusing paperwork.
💸 Startup Haul: Israeli cybersecurity startup Coro raised $60 million in its latest round of funding.
📉 Budget Bonanza: Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that he plans to cut petrol taxes as fuel prices surge and also said that Israel’s budget deficit likely fell to between 1.5% and 1.6% of GDP.
🛢️ Power Grid: Israel, Greece and Cyprus agreed to expand their cooperation on natural gas pipeline projects with European energy dependency, a new priority following the fighting in Ukraine.
Pic of the Day
Kalush Orchestra, Ukraine’s entry in the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, perform Tuesday for Ukrainian Jewish refugees in Jerusalem.
CEO of the Motion Picture Association, former U.S. ambassador to France, Charles Hammerman Rivkin turns 60…
Former justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, the aunt of Benjamin Netanyahu, Shoshana Netanyahu turns 99… Educator often considered the founder of the modern small schools movement, Deborah Meier turns 91… Born in Amsterdam, she survived the Holocaust, moved to Israel in 1978, visual artist, textile designer and art teacher, Helen Berman turns 86… Chemist, writer and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, Mark Mordecai Green turns 85… Head of MTV Documentary Films, she has won 32 individual Primetime Emmy Awards, Sheila Nevins turns 83… Academy Award-winning best director for “Rain Man,” produced and directed many films including “Diner,” “Good Morning Vietnam,” “Bugsy” and “Wag the Dog,” Barry Levinson turns 80… Santa Monica-based poet, critic and teacher, Nancy Shiffrin turns 78… Founder and chairman of Cognex Corporation, Robert J. Shillman turns 76…
Founder and CEO of Emmis Communications, former owner of the Seattle Mariners, Jeff Smulyan turns 75… Political activist, artist and author, Mary Fisher turns 74… Former director of the digital deception project at MapLight, Ann Ravel turns 73… Los Angeles-based playwright, performer and teacher of autobiographical storytelling, Stacie Chaiken turns 68… Director, producer, and writer, winner of two Academy Awards for best documentary feature, Rob Epstein turns 67… Scholar of piyyut (ancient and medieval Hebrew poetry), head of the Fleischer Institute for the Study of Hebrew Poetry, Shulamit Elizur turns 67… Philanthropist Jeanie Schottenstein… Professor of constitutional law at the University of North Carolina School of Law, Michael J. Gerhardt turns 66… Senior political analyst for CNN and a senior editor at The Atlantic, Ronald J. Brownstein turns 64… Director, screenwriter and producer of television comedies, Steven Levitan turns 60… Deborah Granow turns 60… Reporter for The New York Times, Glenn Thrush turns 55… Screenwriter and producer, Doug Ellin turns 54… Serial entrepreneur Richard Rosenblatt turns 53…
Former Israeli consul general in New York, now CEO of Israeli private equity fund Amelia Investments, Asaf Shariv turns 50… Founder and chief investment officer of Hong Kong-based Oasis Management Company, he serves as vice chairman of the Ohel Leah Synagogue in Hong Kong, Seth Hillel Fischer turns 50… Director of multigenerational philanthropy for AIPAC, Jay Haberman turns 48… Actor and filmmaker, Zachary Israel “Zach” Braff turns 47… Teacher of classical mandolin at Mannes College in NYC, Joseph Brent turns 46… Resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, he is the founding editor of National Affairs, Yuval Levin turns 45… Co-founder and executive editor of Modern Loss and features editor for Chalkbeat, Gabrielle Birkner turns 43… Member of the Knesset for Likud, Shlomo Karai turns 40… Owner-chef of Ramen Hood in Los Angeles, he was the winner of the second season of Bravo television’s “Top Chef,” Ilan Hall turns 40… Minneapolis-based associate director in the department of regional offices at AJC Global, Jacob Millner turns 38… Head coach of the New York Institute of Technology Division II NCAA men’s basketball team, Evan Conti turns 29…