👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Amid conflicting reports out of Vienna over the weekend — Iran saying a nuclear deal was close while U.S. officials said gaps remained between the parties — White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday that “our assessment is that the onus for concluding this deal is squarely on Iran,” noting that the U.S. would reenter the 2015 nuclear agreement if the administration decides “it’s in our national security interests.”
“What we’ve seen, however,” Psaki added, “is that Iran has raised a number of issues that [have] nothing to do with the mutual compliance under the nuclear deal. And that is where our focus and our objective is. So, we would encourage Iran to focus on the deal negotiated in Vienna, rather than seeking to open issues outside the Vienna context or casting blame, of course, on others for a pause in the talks.”
More is being revealed about the mass graves in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, where over the weekend the bodies of hundreds of Ukrainians were discovered in large pits and strewn across the city’s streets.
A New York Times investigation, which included the analysis of satellite images, determined that Russian denials of culpability were untrue, and that many of the killings took place during the Russian occupation of the city early last month.
The Washington Post’s editorial boardcalled for an international response to the Bucha massacre, comparing Russian actions with similar behaviors in Syria and Chechnya.
“In the end,” the board writes, “the war against Ukraine is about whether a people who want to build a democracy, to choose their own leaders and to shape their own future, can be cowed into submission by an armed force; whether the sickening inhumanity of murdering residents in Bucha with a bullet to the back of the head will destroy the will of all Ukraine to resist.”
Ron Dermer joins Jerusalem-based investment firm
Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer is set to join the Jerusalem-based investment firm Exigent Capital Group this month as a senior partner, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports. Dermer, who spent eight years as Israel’s envoy in Washington under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told JI that he will draw on the partnerships he forged as one of the key architects of the Abraham Accords to help develop Exigent’s outreach with strategic partners around the world and, particularly, in the Gulf.
Goodwill gestures: “There’s a lot of goodwill from the top-down and from the bottom-up to develop people-to-people peace,” said Dermer, who is in the midst of a month-long speaking tour in the U.S., of the Accords signed by Israel, the UAE and Bahrain in September 2020, with Sudan and Morocco inking separate normalization agreements with Israel in the following months.
Game-changer: “There are a lot of wealthy people in the Gulf and while those looking to only raise money might be successful, I think that such an approach is very limiting,” he told JI. “I want to create a situation where entrepreneurs from Israel and the Gulf set up shop together, build joint ventures – and maybe even the Saudis will join – and that will really be a game-changer in the Arab world.”
Under the radar: Dermer said that he was approached by multiple companies and organizations following his return to Israel a year ago, but was most drawn to Exigent, a multi-strategy investment manager with a focus on early- and late-stage venture capital, private equity, distressed debt and turnarounds, real estate, financial markets arbitrage and fund sponsorships, because of the firm’s top-notch leadership team and the quality of its global investments. “They have been working quietly and under the radar, but I like their track record,” Dermer explained. “They are grounded, but ambitious and want to grow their portfolios. I am happy to be with them and help them grow.”
Strategic move: Eliezer Brender, Exigent’s CEO, told JI that bringing someone of “Ambassador Dermer’s caliber on board,” was a strategic move for the company, which is made up of professionals drawn from major financial institutions worldwide. He said the company was looking to grow its operations globally and in the region, as well as become a leader in boosting the diplomatic process sparked by the Abraham Accords.
Detroit’s Janice Winfrey hopes to oust Rashida Tlaib
Armed with a strong initial fundraising total, longtime Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey is coming out swinging in her challenge to Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Winfrey told JI in a recent interview that she felt the district “is not being represented,” describing Tlaib’s vote last year against the bipartisan infrastructure package as “the last straw.” Winfrey entered the race in February and has since raised $200,000, she told JI.
Quotable: “It appears to me that my opponent is more interested in political gain than she is in serving our constituents,” Winfrey said. “For me, that just makes my teeth itch… For you to run as a Democrat in that district and then don’t support our Democratic president, and don’t support some of the benefits that would directly benefit our community, I feel like you have another agenda. When you don’t support the one ally that we have in the Middle East, then I feel you have another agenda, and that agenda is not conducive to the citizens of the 12th Congressional District.”
Fighting Chance: “If she’s actually raised $200,000 already, then she’s had a good first six weeks of her campaign. That’s a respectable total. She needs to raise a hell of a lot more, but if she’s actually got 200 in the bank, color me impressed and a little surprised,” Adrian Hemond, a local political consultant, told JI. Hemond led then-Rep. John Conyers’ (D-MI) campaign in 2016, when Winfrey challenged him. “That doesn’t mean she’s going to win, but that’s at least a viability signal, and a pretty strong one, that Congresswoman Tlaib could have a race on her hands.”
Contrast: The congressional hopeful emphasized her support for the U.S.-Israel relationship and military aid to Israel as well as her opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. “I don’t care what your dislike is with the Jewish people, you don’t just wipe out a whole country, a whole group of people — that’s never the answer,” Winfrey said. “However fancy you want to make those words so it doesn’t sound like that — but that’s what it is and that’s what you want to do… And I’ll do whatever I need to do to eliminate the likes of those who want to work and dislike the Jewish people just because of who they are.”
Standing back: Winfrey was only broadly familiar with the two-state solution, saying she was “not proficient” in Israel policy but that a two-state solution “might be the best outcome.” She elaborated on her stance in a position paper provided to JI. “We must have confidence in Israel’s ability to determine what is best for her own security and well-being,” she said. “While I support the U.S. conducting Middle East peace talks, the United States should not infringe upon Israel’s sovereign right to pursue peace accords best aligned with her national interests. The United States has a role to facilitate in peace talks, but not dictate them.”
Making friends: Winfrey’sbaseline support for Israel has earned her friends among pro-Israel advocates in the Detroit area. Joshua Tobias — a director of the Ira Kaufman Chapel, the largest Jewish funeral home in the area, and a longtime friend of Winfrey and her husband — told JI he connected Winfrey with local AIPAC activists who organized a recent fundraiser. “From what I can tell, as soon as she met the folks at AIPAC they fell in love with her too and are really trying to help in any way they can,” he said. “She understands the importance of America’s alliance with Israel, and it’s become a very important subject for her as well.”
copper state challenge
Is Mark Brnovich conservative enough for Arizona?
Mark Brnovich, the attorney general of Arizona and a leading Republican Senate candidate, boasts the sort of establishment credentials and statewide profile that have given him a running start in the August primary. His résumé — including a college internship with self-proclaimed maverick John McCain — suggests continuity with an individualist style of Republican politics in the Copper State, and he casts himself as a party faithful who is also charting a solo path in the spirit of such personal heroes as Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia. “It’s a long, strange trip,” Brnovich, 55, quipped in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Psychedelic influence: Lately, though, Brnovich — who hopes to take on Sen. Mark Kelly (D-CA) in the general election — appears to have found himself adrift as former President Donald Trump has asserted his psychedelic spell over Arizona’s warped political landscape. The two-term attorney general has struggled to balance his messaging with appeals to Trump’s base, which remains in thrall to the former president’s attacks on 2020 presidential election results. Brnovich has drawn direct rebukes from Trump for acknowledging that Joe Biden won the election in November 2020.
Mounting a defense: Brnovich defended his record in the interview. “Fortunately, no one has to guess where I stand because I’ve been involved in every single major fight in not only Arizona but this country over the last seven years,” he told JI. “When you look at law and order, someone that’s actually been toe-to-toe with the cartels and gangbangers, when you look at someone that literally lives in the same neighborhood they grew up in and cares about the price of gas and the price of groceries — I am a consistent rule-of-law Republican, and I think that’s what Arizonans want.”
Eye on Israel: Describing himself as an “unabashed supporter of Israel,” Brnovich said he is “wholeheartedly” in favor of continued U.S. security funding as well as supplemental assistance for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system. In 2018, Brnovich visited Israel for the second time since he assumed office, attending a financial technology conference in Tel Aviv and visiting the city of Sderot near the border with Gaza — an experience he characterized as instructive. “I understand the threats to Israel’s existence are very, very real,” said Brnovich, recalling that he had toured an indoor recreation center designed to protect against rocket attacks from Hamas. “I’ve seen it firsthand.”
Burn, baby, burn: Brnovich has led public polling on the race, even as most voters say they are still undecided. But his surprisingly sluggish fundraising has proven incommensurate with his status as a well-known elected official, fueling speculation over his viability. In his quest to claim the seat once occupied by his old boss, McCain, Brnovich said he recognized that there were challenges ahead, but expressed confidence that he would prevail. “You’ve got to be able to take a punch and give a punch,” he said. It was unclear, though, if he was including the former president in that assessment.
🇺🇦 Holocaust History: In The Atlantic, Alex Zeldin explores how Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s worldview and understanding of the Holocaust was shaped by his upbringing in the former USSR. “The Soviet Jews in my family who survived the Holocaust never once referred to themselves as Holocaust survivors — when we were exposed to Western films about this in the ’90s, my family would say the Holocaust was something that the Jews who went through the camps survived… The intellectual framework surrounding the Second World War that the Soviet regime forced upon its citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, did not account for why the Nazis targeted the Jews in particular. Far from being a Holocaust denier who downplays Ukrainian Nazi collaboration, Zelensky is, like the rest of the 2 million Jews who survived Soviet rule, making political appeals using what he knows — or, put more pointedly, what he has been allowed to know.” [TheAtlantic]
⚖️ Court Fight: In The Washington Post, Ronald Shafer compares Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings to those of Louis Brandeis, the first Jewist jurist tapped for the high court, whose confirmation hearings contained antisemitic undercurrents. “Until 1916, Congress didn’t conduct public hearings on Supreme Court nominees. That changed when President Woodrow Wilson nominated Boston lawyer Louis D. Brandeis to be the high court’s first Jewish justice. The Senate quickly convened the first confirmation hearings. Its stated reason was that the 59-year-old lawyer was a controversial liberal who might lack ‘judicial temperament.’ But antisemitism was an uneasy undercurrent in the debate, and Brandeis himself suspected his religion was one of the main causes for skepticism of his appointment. The Senate hearings were contentious, like the recent confirmation hearings of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.” [WashPost]
⚡ Next-Gen Entrepreneur: Forbes’ Steven Bertoni profiles Bolt founder Ryan Breslow, the self-made 27-year-old billionaire founder of the fintech company Bolt. “Good grades and entrepreneurial hustle won him admission to Stanford in 2012. Palo Alto was a culture shock. The driving-range cashier was now classmates with the country club set. ‘I had never met kids with this level of wealth. People’s parents had founded companies and were CEOs of corporations,’ he says. ‘Parents had them in programming classes since they were 12.’ If he was intimidated, he didn’t let it show. He studied computer science, got into breakdancing, relaunched the Stanford chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi (a Jewish fraternity focused on entrepreneurship) and cofounded the Stanford bitcoin club. Sophomore year he and a classmate began designing a digital wallet that let you buy small amounts of bitcoin to use for everyday commerce. A Silicon Valley tech vet pledged seed capital, and the two got to work.” [Forbes]
Around the Web
🛥️ Dock Departure: A $600 million superyacht owned by Roman Abramovich left the Turkish port of Bodrum after two weeks docked in the city.
🤒 Positive Test: The mayor of Louisville, Ky., is quarantining in Israel after testing positive for COVID-19 while on an American Jewish Committee trip for American mayors.
🏗️ Building Beware: Residents in a Miami Beach apartment building were forced to evacuate when an engineering firm determined the building to be structurally unsound, nine months after the deadly collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in nearby Surfside.
🚏 Sign of the Times: The Paterson, N.J., City Council voted unanimously to name part of the city’s Main Street “Palestine Way.”
🏙️ Lousy Landlord: New York City Mayor Eric Adams is taking Brooklyn notorious landlord Moshe “Morris” Piller — who in 2010 garnered media attention for evicting a Holocaust survivor — to court over his handling of properties.
☕ Cup of Joe: On his first day back on the job, returning Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced the global coffee chain would stop stock buybacks in an effort “to create long-term value for all stakeholders.”
💸 Money Matters: Deutsche Bank made a loan to the Azrieli Group for an undisclosed amount of money to help the Israeli real estate developer finance its recent purchase of Norwegian data centers firm Green Mountain AS.
🇶🇦 Gulf Get-together: A delegation of Hamas officials traveled to Doha for a meeting with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani earlier this week.
🫓 Mr. Matzah: The Mets will offer kosher for Passover food at CitiField for the duration of the holiday.
🎙️Transition: The Mets hired Jake Eisenberg as the team’s third play-by-play recapper, to cover for Howie Rose, who will miss several dozen games this season.
🕯️ Remembering: Israeli businessman Eitan Wertheimer died at 70.
Pic of the Day
Founder of merchant bank Alnitak Capital Partners and president of NORPAC New York, Stanley B. Stern turns 65…
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, Joseph Lelyveld turns 85… Former vice-provost of the California Institute of Technology, David L. Goodstein turns 83… Research scientist and former CEO of the Ontario Genomics Institute, he is a lecturer on Jewish medical ethics, Mark J. Poznansky turns 76… Marketing consultant, Eugene Kadish turns 74… Professor emeritus in the department of Jewish thought at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Daniel J. Lasker turns 73… Engineer and inventor, best known for his invention of the Segway, Dean Kamen turns 71… CEO of Hess Corporation, John Barnett Hess turns 68… British novelist, author of over 40 books specializing in mystery and suspense, his Alex Rider series is estimated to have sold 19 million copies worldwide, Anthony Horowitz turns 67… Russia editor for BBC News, Steven Barnett Rosenberg turns 54… Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky turns 53…
Israeli actress and model, Sendi Bar turns 46… Film and television writer and producer and co-founder of Quantity Entertainment, Lee Eisenberg turns 45… Assistant managing editor for CNN Politics, Dan Berman turns 43… Director of global sanctions policy and strategy at PayPal, Howard Wachtel turns 42… Boston-based musician and fine artist, Marissa Nadler turns 41… VP at D.C.-based Porter Group, Benjamin J. Rosenbaum turns 39… Israeli screenwriter and political activist focused on disability benefits, Alex Fridman turns 34… Program director at 2U and an MBA Candidate at Rice University, Adam Maslia turns 33… Director at Bully Pulpit Interactive, Sarah Horvitz turns 33… Congressional analyst at GovTrack Insider and box office analyst at BoxOffice Media, Jesse Rifkin turns 30… Associate at Schmidt Futures, Wilson Shirley turns 29… Marketing consultant at Creative Artists Agency, Camila Seta turns 29… Adam Ross Rubenstein turns 27… Harvey Levin…