👋 Good Thursday morning!
Secretary of State Tony Blinken told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell yesterday that he is not “overly optimistic” that the U.S. will reach a new agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Time is getting extremely short,” Blinken said. “But this is something that we’ll be talking to our European partners about this afternoon and then over the course of the next day. We’ve been working in very close coordination with the Europeans, with the European Union, with France, with Germany, with the U.K. So we’ll see where we get. I continue to believe it would be in the best interests of our country if we can get back into compliance with the deal, if Iran will do the same. We’re not there.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), one of four Senate Democrats who opposed the original Iran nuclear deal in 2015, told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod yesterday that he’s “very leery” of Iran talks and that he’ll likely oppose any new deal, saying, “I wasn’t for it before and I can’t see myself changing my position.”
Meanwhile, a group of House Democrats came together yesterday to express their concerns over a potential return to the deal. More below.
Summing it up, the International Crisis Group’s Ali Vaez, a proponent of a renewed Iran deal, told Foreign Policy’s Colum Lynch: “You have to decide what’s more important: uranium enrichment or Iranian enrichment,” Vaez, who thinks there’s a 50-50 chance a new deal is reached, said. “If you are more concerned about uranium enrichment, then this deal is better than the alternative. If you are more concerned about Iranian enrichment, then you would argue for a no-deal scenario.”
The Council of the District of Columbia — Washington, D.C.’s official legislative body — unanimously passed a resolution this week that condemns antisemitism and affirms the District’s “commitment to cultivating an inclusive community.”
The resolution was the council’s first-ever legislative approach to combating antisemitism. Council member Brianne Nadeau introduced the resolution in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.
in the spotlight
The Israeli lawmaker who could topple the government
Israeli Knesset member Idit Silman made national and international headlines on Wednesday after abruptly resigning from her position in an already fragile ruling coalition, raising fears that Israel could soon be thrust into another cycle of parliamentary elections. While those who follow the country’s politics closely might be familiar with Silman, a 41-year-old lawmaker from Rehovot, others are asking about the woman now shaking up Israel’s political scene and what stands behind her decision to seriously weaken, if not topple, the current government, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Short term: Silman was first elected to the Knesset in 2019 as part of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, but quickly lost her seat when then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a government. A second election was called months later. In the follow-up vote, Silman’s party merged with a broader alliance of right-wing factions to form the current Yamina party, headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Silman won back a top place on the party’s list ahead of a third election in March 2021. Silman reentered the Knesset last April, going on to serve as the coalition whip, as well as chair of the Knesset’s Health Committee, among other positions.
Mounting pressure: As one of the more right-wing members of what is considered to be Israel’s broadest-ever coalition – the government includes ideologically conflicting parties and political voices – Silman has faced sharp criticism and pressure from the opposition to stand down for ideological reasons. Last November, she told journalists that she had received numerous offers from members of Netanyahu’s Likud party to defect.
At odds: Silman herself has regularly been at odds with decisions and policies promoted by the current coalition. In December, she visited the controversial anti-abortion organization Efrat, after Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, announced policy reforms relating to the abortion process in Israel. She has also been outspoken against the so-called “Western Wall deal,” which aims to create a pluralistic prayer space at the holy site.
Final straw: According to some Israeli media reports, the final straw for Silman came this week after Horowitz ordered hospitals to allow patients and visitors to enter with non-kosher food, or chametz, during the forthcoming Passover holiday. Bennett said Wednesday that Silman had been persecuted and harassed by Netanyahu’s supporters and by ultra-right lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich. “In the end, she broke,” he said.
Bonus: Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer considers the possible scenarios for Israel’s government following the announcement by MK Idit Silman that she is leaving the coalition.
Mark Walker is keeping the faith in North Carolina
There are many visits to Mar-a-Lago that offer a thumbs-up and high-wattage smile from former President Donald Trump as he anoints a candidate with a prized endorsement. But one such meeting late last year hosted by Trump at his Palm Beach, Fla., resort was more low-key and led to former Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) leaving without a deal — and a determination to run a U.S. Senate campaign his way. “If it were just about the attention I would probably have Trump’s endorsement,” Walker, who represented Greensboro in the state’s 6th Congressional District from 2015 to 2021, told Jonah Kaplan for Jewish Insider. “I would not be doing this unless there was a definitive path to victory.”
Overview: The 2022 race for the Senate seat to replace the retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), observers say, could be the most expensive Senate contest ever. The state primary itself, however, is already shaping up to be a heavyweight bout between Walker, Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC), who represents the 13th Congressional District, former Gov. Pat McCrory and veteran Marjorie K. Eastman. The victor in the May 17 primary will be on the November ballot versus the presumptive Democratic nominee, Cheri Beasley, a former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.
The Trump card: Trump has twice announced his endorsement of Budd, a three-term congressman and gun-shop owner from Winston-Salem. According to Walker, when redistricting combined Budd and Walker’s districts before the 2020 election, he withdrew his candidacy to allow for Budd to remain in Congress – knowing the Senate seat in 2022 would be up for grabs. After Budd announced his own candidacy for the 2022 Senate race, Trump, in a surprise move, announced he would endorse Budd at the 2021 NCGOP convention in June. Several months later, Budd had yet to build a comfortable lead in the polls, leading Trump and his team to think about getting more involved in the race. On Dec. 4, Trump welcomed Walker to Mar-a-Lago and reportedly offered him a deal: drop out of the Senate race and run for Congress instead — and enjoy the full endorsement from Trump and the fundraising that should come with it. Now, four months after that meeting, Walker continues to buck Trump and walk the tightrope of embracing the America First brand while maintaining an aura of independence. Simultaneously, Walker strives to buck polls, which find him in third place behind McCrory and Budd. A new poll from Emerson College released April 5 shows Budd earning support from 38% of respondents, McCrory with 22% and Walker at 9%. “I’ve never done anything in my life just to be the spoiler,” Walker told JI. “I’ve got more important things to do.”
Gotta have faith: As a student of the Bible and a former pastor, Walker maintains he’s well-versed in the significance of the Holy Land, but also claims a deep political and geopolitical understanding of the region. “I’m pretty set on my perspective,” Walker insisted. “To say that there’s as much wrong on the Israeli side as the Palestinian side, well that’s a slippery slope. That sounds like a good political talking point but it’s not factual.” Walker recalled a visit to Israel in 2016 and meetings with then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, followed by a visit to Jericho, in the West Bank, to meet with Palestinian officials, the latter of which Walker said continues to haunt him. “He screamed at us about drinking the Israeli Kool-Aid,” Walker explained. “But when you raise your own children and teach them to hate another group – I’ve got a problem with that. I’ve got a problem with children being taught to be violent, and that should very easily be called out.”
Support system: North Carolina’s primary would have been held on March 8, if not for an order from the state Supreme Court, which halted candidate filing and ordered the General Assembly to redraw legislative districts amid concerns of gerrymandering. The added time has opened the floodgates for more spending, with Club For Growth, a political action committee supporting Budd, intending to spend up to $10 million in ads ahead of the rescheduled primary. McCrory, who initially led in polls but now trails Budd, is the only one of the four candidates to have won a statewide election (though he lost reelection in 2016 with Trump on the ballot). Mark Walker’s endorsements, according to his campaign, include Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. “We’re fully committed to this,” Walker said. “The polls don’t bother me and I’m not going to sit at a desk asking people for money. It matters for people to show up where they are, and I’m daggum proud to do it.”
House Democrats voice concerns about Iran talks
Eighteen House Democrats came together in a joint statement and press conference on Wednesday to voice concerns about the ongoing talks with Iran over its nuclear program, but left unclear whether they would all vote against a deal if or when it comes before Congress, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Welcome to the party: Two members of the group — Reps. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) and Val Demings (D-FL) — had not previously expressed criticisms of the anticipated deal. Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and Ritchie Torres (D-NY) have separately expressed concerns about the deal to JI, bringing the total number of House Democrats who have publicly raised concerns about the agreement to 20.
Quotable: “As a 27-year law enforcement officer and chief of police, I know a habitual offender when I see one. Iran’s corrupt leaders are habitual offenders, sponsors of terror and a threat to U.S. national security, Israel and stability around the world,” Demings, who is running for Senate in Florida, said in a written statement. “I continue to support all efforts to destroy the Iranian government’s terror networks, break up their ballistic missile program, disrupt their meddling in Latin America and gut their nuclear program.”
Up in the air: It’s unclear, however, whether all 20 would vote against a deal. The five members who attended the press conference — Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Juan Vargas (D-CA) and Dean Phillips (D-MN) — emphasized that the group of 18 is not all in agreement. “As a group we have a variety of concerns, everywhere from concern about the negotiations all the way to on the spectrum of outright opposition to reentering the deal,” Luria said. “We understand that while the recent negotiations have not concluded, we feel that we can’t stay quiet about the unacceptable and deeply troubling turn that these talks have reportedly taken.” Phillips added, “This isn’t a whip operation. This is not a group trying to generate opposition to the deal by any stretch of the imagination.”
Question marks: Some other members who opposed the deal in 2015 are staying mum for now. “I’m in regular communication with the administration. It looks like they’re in a waiting period,” Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) said. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), declined to comment on the talks, citing a lack of knowledge of what the draft deal entails, and referred JI to his 23-page analysis of the original deal published in 2015.
Other side: Around 15 House Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee held their own press conference on Wednesday opposing the deal and calling for continued “maximum pressure” sanctions. The Republicans dodged questions about whether they’ve coordinated with the House Democrats in criticizing the negotiations or whether they think they could rally the two-thirds majority needed to block the deal. Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX) said Republicans are drafting a measure to bring to the House floor legislation that seeks to guarantee congressional review of a new deal.
on the hill
House Judiciary Committee advances domestic terrorism bill amid Republican objections
The House Judiciary Committee approved the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act on Wednesday following a heated, lengthy partisan debate involving vaccination mandates and school boards, despite the legislation previously having received bipartisan support, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Background: The legislation, which passed out of the committee by a vote of 21-17 and is backed by Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League, the Orthodox Union and the Jewish Democratic Council of America, targets the rising threat of white supremacist, Neo-Nazi and other right-wing extremist violence in the United States.
In the mud: Partisan disputes over the legislation dragged the committee’s debate across three separate committee meetings. Republicans tied their objections primarily to concerns relating to school board protests and vaccination mandates. The bill has the support of 205 House Democrats and three Republicans. In 2020, similar legislation passed the House by a voice vote — indicating there was little opposition from Republicans — with 180 Democratic sponsors, but stalled in the Senate.
Pushback: “This legislation recently enjoyed bipartisan support because we didn’t know that you meant something different by domestic terrorism than we thought you meant, but if you mean parents of school children are domestic terrorists and we can’t get a clear answer on whether you’re going to pursue that or not, the questions get harder to answer,” Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC), one of the bill’s most outspoken opponents, said. “It really serves to emphasize that this bill is rotten under the circumstances.”
Lamenting: Outside groups backing the legislation decried the direction of the debate. “The bipartisan bill is carefully crafted [and] would legislate important and useful measures to combat domestic terrorism and violence. That’s why it’s had bipartisan support — and the support of the OU and other nonpartisan groups concerned about the safety of the Jewish community and American society more broadly,” OU Advocacy Center Executive Director Nathan Diament told JI. “Given the threats that are out there and endanger people’s lives, we hope that extraneous issues don’t derail the overdue passage of this legislation.” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told JI he was “disappointed by efforts of certain members to derail the [Judiciary Committee meeting] by focusing on tangential or blatantly false digressions.”
🧢 Opining on Opening Day: In Tablet, Tevi Troy explores baseball’s staying power, as the game’s cultural role in society has shifted over time. “The combination of changes to the game with a persistent reverence for its history is why baseball will long be with us. And it will continue to look much the same as it always has. Watch a professional football game from the 1950s, and it’s played between the tackles — not in the air. Watch an NBA game from the 1960s, and nobody dunks or shoots beyond the free throw line — today it’s only around the basket or beyond the three-point line. But the iconic moments in baseball — Willie Mays’ over the shoulder catch, Bobby Thompson’s Shot Heard Round the World, Bill Mazeroski’s World Series-winning home run, Ruth’s called shot — all happen at roughly the same frame rate you still see today. When the fans of 2122 look back at the games from 2022, and at the ones from 1922, I believe they’ll see a single continuum, and have no problem relating to any of it. It’s in the nature of the sport itself.” [Tablet]
👨 Mile High Journey: The Hill’s Karl Evers-Hillstrom spotlights top Denver-based D.C. lawyer Norm Brownstein, co-founder and partner of one of Washington’s premier lobbying firms whose hardscrabble upbringing — his mother died when he was 12 — shaped the course of his life. “Brownstein’s life turned around when a Denver foster family — a 24- and 25-year-old couple who already had three young kids of their own — took him under their wing. He lived with them from age 14 all the way until he got his law degree from the University of Colorado. ‘The luckiest thing that ever happened to me was going to this foster family, because I had kind of lost my way,’ Brownstein said. ‘It was just the conversations you had at dinner, how they cared about your nutrition, how they cared about how you did in school, your future. Those were things that I wasn’t focusing on.’” [TheHill]
🎰 Miri’s Moment: Haaretz’s Shuki Sadeh profiles Miriam Adelson, who has taken control of her husband’s empire in the year since his death. “Adelson, 76, is Israel’s richest person, with her wealth estimated at $38 billion. Until 14 months ago, she stood alongside – or more accurately, perhaps, in the shadow of – her husband, Sheldon. Now, following his death in January 2021, she alone is on the front lines of the Adelson empire. In addition to its commercial branch – Las Vegas Sands, a casino and hotels company that is traded on Wall Street – the empire also has a media branch consisting of two Israeli papers that are distributed for free: Israel Hayom and Makor Rishon. It has a political branch as well, which includes influencing U.S. politics through political donations and philanthropy. People who knew the Adelsons, who were married for 30 years, believe that Miriam enjoyed quite a lot of influence over some of her husband’s decisions – particularly his political views on Israel. ‘Miri was active in their empire long before Sheldon died,’ says a high school friend. ‘She isn’t the poor widow who has suddenly had everything dumped on her.’” [Haaretz]
🇺🇦 Israeli Model: The Atlantic Council’s Dan Shapiro, formerly the U.S. ambassador to Israel, responds to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s recent comments that he envisions a future Ukraine looking like a “big Israel.” “With Russian forces having withdrawn from around Kyiv, suggesting that Ukraine successfully repulsed the first phase of the Kremlin’s invasion, the time is right for Zelenskyy to contemplate how to prepare for the next — and potentially much longer — phase of this conflict. But what does he mean by ‘a big Israel’? With a population more than four times smaller, and vastly less territory, the Jewish state might not seem like the most fitting comparison. Yet consider the regional security threats it faces, as well as its highly mobilized population: The two embattled countries share more than you might think… Like Israel in its early wars, Ukraine appears to have fended off an acute existential threat. But the war is far from over. By adapting their country’s mindset to mirror aspects of Israel’s approach to chronic security challenges, Ukrainian officials can tackle critical national-security challenges with confidence and build a similarly resilient state.” [AtlanticCouncil]
🕍 Helping Hand: The New York Times’ Megan Specia looks at the efforts of the Krakow Jewish Community Center to assist Jewish and non-Jewish Ukrainians alike. “The organization has transformed from a center for Krakow’s small Jewish community into a humanitarian operation, said Jonathan Ornstein, its executive director. ‘Personally, when this is all over, I want to be able to look in the mirror and say that me and my organization did everything we could to help Ukrainians,’ he said. The Jewish Center was founded in 2008, just 40 miles from Auschwitz, the site of some of the worst atrocities during the German occupation of Poland in World War II. The neighborhood where it sits was once the heart of a vibrant community of 65,000 Jews before World War II. It was only hundreds afterward, but has grown into the thousands since the fall of Communism, and is steadily rising.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
✍️ Letter Writing: A bipartisan group of 24 House members wrote to Secretary of State Tony Blinken calling for the administration to ensure that Lebanon’s parliamentary elections are free and occur as scheduled.
🪖 Reporting In: Twenty-two Republicans and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) introduced a bill requiring annual reports on military capabilities of Iran-backed entities and the impacts of sanctions relief on such entities.
💼 Ambassador Absences: Nearly one-third of ambassadorial postings remain unfilled more than a year into the Biden administration, including postings in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.
💸 Putin Penalty: The U.K. government announced sanctions against European Jewish Council President Moshe Kantor for his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
🗣️ Call to Cease: Charles Koch’s nonprofit Stand Together called for the U.S. to end sanctions against Russia and assist in negotiation efforts, warning that an “outright victory” was unlikely for either Russia or Ukraine.
🇷🇺 Propaganda Purposes: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) recent remarks that “there’s real Nazis in Ukraine” and other recent comments on the Russian invasion are being broadcast on Russian state-owned media.
🚓 Hate Alert: The NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force is looking for three teenagers — one of whom brandished a sword — caught on camera threatening six Jewish boys on Manhattan’s Upper West Side last weekend.
📽️ Silver Screen: MGM Worldwide Television Distribution boarded “The Devil Speaks – Eichmann’s Lost Confession,” a documentary containing a previously unreleased interview with Adolf Eichmann before the Nazi official’s capture in Argentina and extradition to Israel.
⚾ Baseball Bet: Mets owner Steve Cohen is pushing the city of New York to develop the 61-acre area near Citi Field, an effort that could see a casino and housing built across from the team’s stadium.
📉 Food Figures: Israeli food firm Strauss warned that its 2022 figures may be hurt by manufacturing delays at its Virginia-based Sabra Dipping Co. site.
☢️ Nuclear Option: Iran said it provided outstanding documents to the International Atomic Energy Agency relating to the watchdog’s investigation of uranium particles discovered at three undeclared sites.
🚚 Nuke Movements: Iran transported its machines that manufacture centrifuge parts to its Natanz facility.
⛔ Never Again: Russian lawmakers voted to impose fines on individuals who draw parallels between the role the USSR and Nazi Germany played in World War II, adding the punishment to a 2021 law that prohibited such speech.
🗳️ COVID Casualty: Russian nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who founded and led the Putin-sympathetic Liberal Democratic Party, died at 75.
Pic of the Day
Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan hosted an early Passover seder at the U.N. on Wednesday. Fifty ambassadors, including U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, attended. “This year, when we think of ‘let my people go,’ we will also think of Ukraine,” Erdan told the gathered crowd. “As Israel’s ambassador, witnessing the atrocities in Ukraine continue, makes me think that if Israel is faced with an existential threat, no international agreement or international organization will come to our rescue. We can only rely on ourselves.”
Professional golfer who joined the PGA Tour in 2015 when he won Rookie of the Year, he has since won four tournaments and enters his fifth Masters tournament today at Augusta National Golf Course, Daniel Berger turns 29…
In 1971 he released the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times and other newspapers, Daniel Ellsberg turns 91… Professor emeritus of philosophy at Vanderbilt University, Marilyn Ann Friedman turns 77… Retired president of Yale University, later CEO of Coursera, Rick Levin turns 75… Consulting research scholar at the Stanford Center on Longevity, Naomi Karp turns 72… Software engineer at FlightView, Jonathan Ruby turns 70… Professor emeritus at Pennsylvania State University, Simon J. Bronner turns 68… Los Angeles-based casting director, Jane Sobo turns 64… Director of project staffing at Tower Legal Solutions in Addison, Texas, Ilene Robin Breitbarth turns 60… Member of the House of Commons of Canada from the Winnipeg area, Martin B. Morantz turns 60… Washington D.C. bureau chief at Insider Inc., Darren Samuelsohn turns 47… Chicago-based co-founder of Project Shema, Oren Jacobson turns 40… Author, travel expert now living in Thailand, Justin Ross Lee turns 39… Senior marketing manager at Leidos, Gregory Hellman turns 36… Reporter covering the White House and Washington for Politico, Daniel Lippman turns 32… Associate at McKinsey & Company, Marissa Wizig turns 30… MBA candidate at the Wharton School, David Farahi turns 28…