👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Seventy national security professionals and former administration officials wrote a letter on Monday to President Joe Biden expressing “grave concerns” over the administration’s consideration to revoke the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ terrorism designation.
The letter’s authors argued that removing the designation would give the IRGC a “green light to murder Americans and attack our allies” and “would cause irreparable harm to the families of American victims of terrorism who are engaged in civil lawsuits against banks and companies that may have criminally conspired with the IRGC’s agents to launder billions of dollars through the U.S. financial system.”
Signatories include former Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), former Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Elan Carr, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Mary Beth Long and former Special Representative for Iran Elliott Abrams.
Fourteen Republican senators wrote to Biden on Monday with a similar message, arguing that revoking the IRGC’s terrorism designation would be “wildly misguided” and “betray our partners and allies.”
Sen. John Kennedy(R-LA) organized the letter, and was joined by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Scott (R-SC), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mike Braun (R-IN), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) and Roger Marshall (R-KS).
Over the weekend,video surfaced of Mahmoud-Reza Aghamiri, a senior Iranian nuclear engineer, discussing Iran’s nuclear program. “If our nuclear capability was at the level of 1997-1998, who would bother to negotiate with you? It is natural to have the power, the might, and the capabilities that would make your enemy succumb to your demands in the negotiations,” he is heard saying.
First-quarter fundraising numbers are coming in ahead of the April 15 deadline, the final filing deadline before a number of primaries over the next several months.
In the member-on-member Democratic primary in Illinois’ 6th Congressional District, Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) announced he had raised $784,000. His challenger, Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) has not yet announced her Q1 fundraising numbers.
In the newly redrawn 11th Congressional District in Michigan, another member-on-member Democratic primary is shaping up to be one of the most expensive races in the nation. Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) pulled in $2.5 million, while Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) raised $1.2 million.
Steve Irwin, a Democrat running for a House seat in Pennsylvania, pulled in $613K.
Also hitting the $600K club is former Trump administration State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, who announced her haul a month and a half after entering the Tennessee 5th District race with former President Donald Trump’s endorsement.
Israeli ambassador urges ‘deterrence’ as best strategy to prevent nuclear Iran
The best strategy for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran is “serious deterrence,” Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog said in a Monday virtual event with The Washington Post, reports Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch. “I do believe that if you reinstate deterrence, you will prevent war. I certainly believe that if you show assertiveness vis-a-vis Iran, as Israel has shown in the last few years in the region, you will deter Iran,” Herzog said. When pressed by Post national security correspondent Souad Mekhennet to explain what deterrence looks like, Herzog did not offer specifics.
Wait and see: “We maintain our options open, we will build our capabilities to counter Iran, we will maintain our freedom of action. And we’ll decide in due time what action to take,” said Herzog. He added that the main thing he would hope to see in a nuclear agreement is “a deal without sunsets, or if at all, sunsets in a very far distance,” referring to the so-called “sunset clauses” in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, whereby certain terms of the agreement expire after a predetermined number of years.
Expert negotiator: Before becoming ambassador late last year, Herzog served for decades as a member of Israel’s negotiating team and played a role in talks with Palestinians and Jordanians. He touched upon that experience when the conversation turned toward Israel’s normalization agreements with several Arab states. Why, Mekhennet asked, is peace with the Palestinians so much harder to achieve than the agreements reached with the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain?
Conflicting narratives: “We’re talking about two national movements with claims to the same piece of territory with conflicting narratives,” Herzog said of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, drawing a distinction to Israel’s new regional partners with whom it does not share borders. “It’s extremely difficult to bridge over these gaps. It’s not that we haven’t tried. We tried for many, many years, and there were all sorts of offers on the table.”
Russia response: Herzog also addressed Israel’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and criticism from some other Western nations that Israel’s early response was weak. “It took Israel, though, a bit longer to condemn the actions, or at least this was how the rest of the world felt about it,” said Mekhennet. “Why did it take so long for Israel to condemn Russia?”
Back to reality: “I disagree with the premise of your question. It took Israel a day or two, but we condemned unequivocally,” said Herzog, but he added, “We do have some constraints because we have a Russian military neighboring us in Syria, and it’s critical for Israel to maintain freedom of action against Iran in Syria.”
From actress to activist, Noa Tishby is Israel’s first special envoy to fight antisemitism
As Israel’s first special envoy for combating antisemitism and delegitimization, Israeli actress and author Noa Tishby knows she has her work cut out for her. Antisemitic attacks – both online and in-person – are on the rise, and Israel is the rare country whose right to exist is regularly challenged, Tishby told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash this week in an exclusive interview, her first since being appointed.
Collective effort: “I know we have a lot of work to do,” said Tishby, who over the past decade has become an icon in the world of Jewish advocacy and whose 2021 book, Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, received broad praise. “No one individual will ever eliminate antisemitism — this is a fight that must be done collectively by Jews and non-Jews alike, and I will work tirelessly to help lead that effort.” Tishby was appointed to the post, for which she is not being paid, by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
Bridging the divide: In her new role, Tishby, 44, who splits her time between Los Angeles and Israel, plans to use her celebrity status and her large social media presence, as well as her unique voice on the subject, to take on the fight and, she said, work to serve as a bridge between the country of her birth and her new home. “I like to say that I am 100% Israeli and 100% American, and I believe I can be a bridge between the sides,” said the actress, recognizing that just as Israel struggles to explain itself and its actions, Americans often view the Jewish state, and its conflict with the Palestinians, through an incorrect and narrow paradigm. “Framing this situation as a pro-[Palestinian] or pro-Israel issue is problematic at the core.”
Bonus: The co-chairs of the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism said in a statement that Tisby is “a powerful voice in defending the Jewish people and the State of Israel” and praised Lapid’s “leadership and vision” in creating the post. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) lauded Tishby as a “dear friend” and “a true Renaissance woman.”
morning in america
Marjorie Eastman conjures up Reagan’s ‘big tent’
In North Carolina’s cutthroat Republican Senate primary — the dynamics of which have increasingly been shaped by former President Donald Trump — one underdog candidate is making a somewhat quixotic argument that the GOP should look further back to seek guidance from another influential conservative figurehead: Ronald Reagan. “I’m all about Ronald Reagan’s big tent,” Marjorie Eastman, an author and Army veteran, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview. “We have quite a lot at stake, we have a bigger mission, and the values that conservatives have are what we need to really help our country move forward.”
Fraught landscape: By invoking the 40th president, Eastman is harkening back to an era of American politics that looks decidedly more civilized than the fraught political landscape on which Republican primaries now play out. Eastman, 42, is one of several Republican candidates vying to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) in the May primary, which has been among the nastiest elections of the midterms as Trump has exerted his influence with an endorsement of Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC).
Glass half full: Despite an uphill challenge, Eastman, who declared her candidacy months after Budd was anointed, said she was unfazed by Trump’s pick. “North Carolinians are very smart voters, they think for themselves, and they take all the information in,” she told JI. “It doesn’t matter if you believed in the last administration, liked the policies, maybe you’re a little bit more of a moderate or not. I just find that North Carolinians are very, very focused on moving forward.”
‘Right thing to do’: While Eastman acknowledged that, as a self-described political outsider, she does not have a voting record on such matters, she said she was “100% behind Israel.” Her views, she said, are personally informed by a family story connected with the Holocaust, noting that her son is named after her husband’s grandfather, who fought in the Dutch resistance during World War II. “He would tell him stories of how he would hide Jewish families in his barn to protect them and put his own family at risk in doing that,” Eastman told JI. “That was the right thing to do, to take care of people.”
Respecting differences: Eastman, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan during her 10 years as an Army intelligence officer and commander, said her military experience has contributed to a more tolerant view of human differences that is particularly important amid rising incidents of antisemitic attacks. “When you serve together in the military, you come from all walks of life,” Eastman said. “We don’t have to agree on everything, we can be different, but that’s exactly right. We respect our differences, and differentiation adds value, but let’s focus on how we can move together and focus on the mission at hand.”
Benny Gantz: ‘Hard to see’ where coalition ‘will be next week’
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed uncertainty on Monday about the future of the Israeli coalition government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid after the coalition lost its one-seat majority in the Knesset last week, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Quotable: “I hope that we can keep the government… it is very hard to see where are we going to be next week,” Gantz said at a virtual event on Monday with The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “I know where we want to be next week. We want to be with a functioning government, responsible government that serves the entire society of Israel.”
Downgrade: Gantz also discussed a range of topics regarding Israeli-Palestinian relations and security policy. He repeatedly stated that, in the near term, Israel must “find ways to live with the Palestinians” in a “two-entity situation” short of a two-state solution. He said that the invocation of a two-state solution “creates a huge gap between an old phrase on one hand and a very faraway vision on the other hand.”
Next steps: Gantz said it is “very important” that some PA officials and local leaders have condemned the wave of recent terrorist attacks in Israel, but noted that others are “inciting terror.” He called for “concrete action by the Palestinian Authority” but said Israel “obviously won’t be waiting for them.” He pledged that, if overall tensions remain low, he will expand various programs benefiting Palestinians, including a program allowing some Palestinians to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque without permits and issuing work permits to Palestinians living in Gaza. “If it stays quiet, I will increase it,” Gantz said, of the work permits. “If it goes wrong, I’ll have to cease it. I hope they will understand it.”
Deal or no deal: The defense minister also addressed the possibility of a new Iran deal, calling on negotiators to “minimize the loopholes that we are seeing within the deal itself.” He noted that Iran is much closer to a nuclear weapon than it was in 2015 when the original Iran deal was struck, and predicted that the funds Iran would gain through a deal would generate an uptick in other regional malign activities. “I understand the American wish to put the Iranian issue back in the box. But if you don’t close the open loopholes, you’re going to get a serious problem down the road,” he said. “I understand what are the benefits of a potential deal as long as it [has] taken care of what needs to be taken care of.”
🗣️ A House Divided: In The Atlantic, Jonathan Haidt dissects the last decade, in which he describes a society “cut off from one another and from the past,” attributing the increase in politicization and polarization in large part to social media and the internet. “The story of Babel is the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit. Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past. It’s been clear for quite a while now that red America and blue America are becoming like two different countries claiming the same territory, with two different versions of the Constitution, economics, and American history. But Babel is not a story about tribalism; it’s a story about the fragmentation of everything. It’s about the shattering of all that had seemed solid, the scattering of people who had been a community. It’s a metaphor for what is happening not only between red and blue, but within the left and within the right, as well as within universities, companies, professional associations, museums, and even families.” [TheAtlantic]
✡️ Meaningful Ministry: In Tablet, Matti Friedman profiles Israel’s minister of religious services, Matan Kahana, a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party who falls into the category of “religious-Zionist” and who has become a prominent figure in the coalition government despite his relative neophyte status as a politician. “No one sane dreams of being the minister of religious services, which has always mostly entailed channeling funding and patronage to an Ottoman religious bureaucracy in charge of things like religious courts and ritual baths. But Kahana claims this was the only job he wanted. He felt the Jewish-democratic state splintering and identified this office as the fulcrum. ‘I wanted this ministry,’ he told me, ‘because I think someone like me can be the connecting hyphen.’” [Tablet]
👨👨 Running With Rudy: The Washington Post’s Paul Schwartzman looks at Andrew Giuliani’s longshot bid for governor of New York, which has included a number of events and appearances with his father. “Political dynasties are a well-worn American tradition. The Adamses, Roosevelts, Kennedys and Bushes are among the clans that have spawned second generations of torchbearers and wannabes. What makes Andrew Giuliani’s quest distinct is that he started his political career at a moment when his father’s reputation has never been more damaged… Yet, in certain sections of New York — conservative White enclaves in the city, suburbs and beyond — the Giuliani brand is still strong. And while some Republicans running statewide in Blue America might want to avoid touting their ties to Trump and Rudy, Andrew Giuliani celebrates them at every turn.” [WashPost]
Around the Web
💼 New Job: President Joe Biden nominated Ohio attorney Steven M. Dettelbach to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
➡️ Next In Line: Michael Barr, dean of the University of Michigan’s public policy school and a former Treasury Department official, is rumored to be the administration’s pick for a top position at the Federal Reserve, after Biden’s previous nominee, Sarah Bloom Raskin, failed to muster the requisite support.
🧑⚖️ Back in Court: Haider Ali, who was arrested in Washington, D.C., last week for allegedly impersonating a federal agent and conning legitimate agents, said he traveled to Iran to visit religious sites.
📜 Birthday Nachas: In a presidential proclamation for Education and Sharing Day, Biden noted, “Today — on what would have been the [Lubavitcher] Rebbe’s 120th birthday — let us celebrate all the educators, advocates, and pioneers who teach young people the lessons that create caring neighbors and closer communities. Let us commit to learning together, sharing the best we have to offer, and working in unity for the common good.”
🗳️ Copper State Challenge: Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) is facing three more centrist primary challengers ahead of the state’s August primary, following months in which the legislator has come under criticism for associating with far-right activists.
🇺🇦 Helping Hand: CNN spotlights the efforts of the Jewish community in Poland to assist Ukrainian refugees, noting that the international Jewish community, led by American philanthropies, has donated more than $100 million to the effort in the last two months.
🖥️ Web Warrior: Craig Newmark Philanthropies will spend upwards of $50 million on a “cyber civil defense” to educate Americans on cybersecurity threats.
⚾ Diamonds Aren’t Forever: The Lerner family, which has owned the Washington Nationals for 16 years, is considering changing the team’s ownership structure, including a possible sale of the 2019 World Series champion club.
📺 King David: “Curb Your Enthusiasm” creator Larry David confirmed the show will return for a 12th season.
📡 Off Air: “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg will “be gone for awhile,” castmate Joy Behar said, explaining that Goldberg has “got a movie she’s making and she will be back when she finishes whatever she’s doing.”
🏈 Apt Apology: ESPN’s Adam Schefter apologized for discussing Dwayne Haskins’ professional struggles in a tweet announcing the football player’s death.
⚽ Seeking Soccer: Co-owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors Larry Tanenbaum has joined a group seeking to purchase Chelsea FC after the club was put up for sale by owner Roman Abramovich.
🚓 On Record: The NYPD recorded 86 antisemitic hate crimes in the first three months of 2022, a spike in such crimes after a lull during the pandemic.
👎 Bad Language: Local officials in New York, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, are condemning antisemitic comments made at a recent town board meeting in Rockville Centre, Long Island.
💻 Damaged Goods: The controversial NSO Group was deemed “valueless” to its private equity backers, according to U.K. court documents.
🇪🇺 I Spy: Reuters reports that the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware was reportedly used to target European Commission officials.
📈 Rate Raise: For the first time since 2018, Israel’s central bank raised its interest rate, surpassing analysts’ expectations and setting the level at 0.35%, in a bid to counter rising inflation.
🛡️ Big Export: Israel’s defense exports to Abraham Accords signatory countries reached nearly $800 million in 2021, after the inking of the normalization agreements the previous September.
🤝 Doha Deal: Iran and Qatar reached an agreement that will see the Islamic Republic host potentially hundreds of thousands of World Cup attendees when the games kick off in Doha.
👮 Security Situation: Iran asked the Taliban for more protection at its diplomatic buildings in Afghanistan, after protests at one of its consulates and its embassy in Kabul.
🕯️ Remembering: Yale University professor Sidney Altman, a Nobel laureate in chemistry for his research into RNA, died at 82.
Pic of the Day
Members of the Beis Aharon V’Yisrael Synagogue in Lviv, Ukraine, during a service yesterday. Despite the war, the synagogue remains open, with Passover supplies recently delivered from outside the country.
National correspondent for “CBS Sunday Morning,” Rita Braver turns 74…
Senior U.S. District Court judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Judge Alan Neil Bloch turns 90… Founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel, Pastor John Charles Hagee turns 82… Attorney and bestselling novelist of eleven legal thrillers and author of three nonfiction books, Scott Turow turns 73… Television producer and screenwriter, he serves as chairman of the Liverpool Football Club and the Boston Red Sox, Thomas Charles Werner turns 72… SVP at UJA Federation of New York, Stuart Tauber turns 70… Moroccan-born fashion designer and co-founder of the Guess clothing and accessory brand, Paul Marciano turns 70… West Bloomfield, Mich., resident, Ron Mitnick turns 68… Washington, D.C. attorney, Norman B. “Norm” Antin turns 66… Chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews since 2014, she was appointed to the House of Lords in 2021, Baroness Joanna Merron turns 63… U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York, Judge Paul A. Engelmayer turns 61… Twin brothers, both real estate agents starring in the Netflix original series “Selling Sunset,” Jason and Brett Oppenheim both turn 45… Actress, director and writer, Jordana Spiro turns 45… Realtor and VP for Keller Williams focused on Cambridge and Somerville, Mass., Ilya Jacob Rasner turns 41… President at National Student Legal Defense Network, Aaron Ament turns 41… California State senator, Henry I. Stern turns 40… Member of the Seattle City Council, Daniel Aaron Strauss turns 36… Comedian, writer and actress, best known for co-creating and co-starring in the Comedy Central series “Broad City,” Ilana Glazer turns 35… Israeli actress best known for her lead role in the 2012 film “Fill the Void,” Hadas Yaron turns 32… Actor, currently starring as Big Red in the Disney series “High School Musical,” Larry Saperstein turns 24…