👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Nebraska and West Virginia voters head to the polls today. More below on the races we’re watching.
Former Anti-Defamation League National Director Abe Foxman published an op-ed in the Detroit News this morning criticizing Rep. Andy Levin’s (D-MI) stance on Israel and antisemitism and endorsing his primary opponent, Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI).
“[Levin] uses his Jewishness [and] respected political family name as a cover for softness on both issues,” Foxman told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod last night. “On Israel, he is a constant critic. I worry about people who envelop themselves in protecting Israel from itself. He knows better. I find that very troubling because he doesn’t bear the consequences of his recommendations or criticisms or decisions because he’s a citizen here.”
Foxman also said, on antisemitism, “nothing from the left concerns [Levin],” specifically citing the congressman’s friendship with Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). He said that Stevens has been “very clear” where she stands on both issues.
Karine Jean-Pierre, who is set to take over for Jen Psaki as White House press secretary next week, has come under fire for an op-ed she published in Newsweek in 2019 encouraging Democrats to skip AIPAC’s annual conference. She called the pro-Israel lobby “severely racist” and wrote that “AIPAC’s values are not progressive values.” At the time, she was the national spokesperson for the advocacy group MoveOn.
Jean-Pierre, who will be the first Black White House press secretary, has not commented on the matter since her appointment was announced last week. She has been serving as principal deputy press secretary since last year. Her most recent public comments about Israel were in 2020, when she tweeted an image of Muslim and Jewish paramedics praying together in Israel at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and called it an “inspiring show of humanity.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment from Jewish Insider on Monday.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines will testify this morning before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the global threat landscape. And Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) will speak at a Jewish Federations of North America event to kick off the group’s virtual lobbying campaign.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding a confirmation hearing this afternoon for the nominee to be State Department counterterrorism coordinator, Elizabeth Richard, as well as the nominee to be Ukraine ambassador, Bridget Brink. Both are career foreign service officers.
Politico reported yesterday that Richard, as ambassador to Lebanon in 2020, turned away a supplemental security force sent to Beirut following the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani without consulting her superiors.
A White House speechwriter chronicles major speeches never delivered
On election night in November 2000, speechwriter Jeff Nussbaum had drafted three possible speeches for his boss, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. Gore didn’t deliver any of them: In a surprising twist, he won the popular vote but lost the electoral count to George W. Bush. Nussbaum’s speeches, which would have ushered in an alternate ending, were lost to history. But that night marked the first stop on a scavenger hunt whose clues Nussbaum has been following for two decades. The result is his new book Undelivered: The Never-Heard Speeches That Would Have Rewritten History, which comes out today, just weeks after Nussbaum stepped down from serving as a speechwriter to President Joe Biden. Nussbaum talked to Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch about how he tracked down the speeches, what they teach us about history — and shares some of his own undelivered speeches.
Track them down: “It started me thinking, there must be other instances in history — and not just elections, which are obvious — where an ultimate outcome wasn’t just envisioned, [but] the words that would accompany that outcome were drafted,” Nussbaum said. “I started to follow breadcrumbs for undelivered speeches wherever I heard them.”
Cool down: Each chapter gives readers insight into the complicated political calculus that goes into a leader’s speech. Former Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a young civil rights activist during the 1960s, intended to give a heated address criticizing the Democratic establishment at the 1963 March on Washington. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped in to get Lewis to tone down his rhetoric. There was a “fear that John Lewis’ speech was so hot that the Catholic leadership would pull out of the event, and the Kennedys desperately wanted the Catholic Church’s seal of approval on this march,” Nussbaum explained. “That sort of fraught relationship between progressive religious groups and civil rights, I think, is tremendously fascinating.”
No peace: One speech that only appears in the book as an acknowledgment of defeat was the speech that President Jimmy Carter planned to deliver if the 1978 Camp David negotiations between Israel and Egypt fell apart. On the verge of collapse, the parties “moved so quickly to an agreement that they basically sprinted out of Camp David to the White House,” said Nussbaum. “Everything that was on President Carter’s desk, including the failure speech — basically, imagine someone taking an arm and sweeping it across the desk into a box, and into the box it went.” The Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta confirmed to Nussbaum that the box existed, but no copy of the speech was found in it.
Rumor mill: What about Nussbaum’s own undelivered speeches? There are “dozens and dozens” of them, he said. His favorites? “I have presidential announcement speeches for people who didn’t end up running for president.” Unfortunately for political gossip hounds, those didn’t make it into the book.
what’s old is new
How an ancient Saudi Arabian region is being reborn as a hub for culture and tourism
It was long one of Saudi Arabia’s best-kept secrets — even among Saudis themselves — the ancient region of AlUla, known only to those living in its proximity and a few archaeologists and scholars. Access to this once-forgotten region changed when Saudi Arabia opened to international leisure travelers in September 2019, granting tourist visas to the country, which for years was closed off to visitors, Rebecca Anne Proctor reports for The Circuit.
Gulf goal: The AlUla Project, as it has been dubbed, is a plan to transform this ancient region into a global tourist experience under the direction of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), a Saudi government body established in July 2017 to preserve and develop AlUla. It is also a cornerstone of Vision 2030, a strategic framework to transform the Gulf nation economically and socially, open itself to the world and wean its dependence off crude oil.
Vacation destination: While the lure of discovering ancient desert lands and archaeological attractions as well as contemporary art and culture are central to the AlUla Project’s vision, the goal of the effort is also to transform the ancient region into a primary luxury destination in Saudi Arabia. The region, which is 22,500 square kilometers (9,000 square miles), approximately the same size as New Jersey, is now home to five-star accommodations. “AlUla’s positioning allows it to attract and host high-spending individuals from around the world and the kingdom itself and be a key generator for the kingdom’s tourism-related revenue,” added Philip Jones, chief destination marketing officer at The Royal Commission for AlUla.
Sightseeing: Visitors to AlUla can see the region’s curvaceous sand dunes, anamorphous red rock structures, famous “Elephant Rock” — a gigantic rock formation in the shape of an elephant, the 110 well-preserved tombs set into the rock formations with their ancient architectural structures featuring elaborate facades cut out of the sandstone outcrops surrounding AlUla’s walled urban settlement —akin to those found also in Petra, Jordan. Now, travelers can also take in a host of contemporary art projects, such as Desert X, featuring a land art exhibition every two years, and Maraya, a mirror-covered concert hall (also the largest mirrored building on earth, according to Guinness World Records) hosting such stars as Andrea Boccelli and, most recently, Alicia Keys, among many other attractions.
eye on the island
Nassau Republicans are all in on Anthony D’Esposito
Nassau County Republicans have quickly coalesced around Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, a former police detective and fire chief, as their best hope to flip the Long Island congressional seat currently held by retiring Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
In the race: D’Esposito told Jewish Insider last week that he’s running for Congress “because the country clearly needs a change” and people in the community feel “that our country and our state are on the wrong track… We really need some common sense in Washington.” The town councilman said that he would seek to “treat government like a business and make sure that you protect the taxpayer at all costs,” which he said would be a continuation of his work on issues like cutting taxes in Hempstead. He characterized public safety as “a huge issue” — both locally and at the U.S. southern border — and decried rising gas and food prices.
Policy platform: D’Esposito boasted of strong relationships with the local Jewish community and a strong record on Israel, including opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in local government. “We’ve certainly done our part for a township on Long Island to really fly the flag and let everyone know that we not only stand with Israel, but we’re willing to put the pen to paper and let everyone across the nation know it,” he said. Like most Republicans, the Hempstead councilman opposes returning to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, but said he would “absolutely” support a stronger agreement, although he had not thought through what he’d like to see in such an accord.
Races to watch in West Virginia and Nebraska today
It’s primary day in West Virginia and Nebraska. Here are some of the races to watch:
WV-02: In West Virginia, attention is on the 2nd Congressional District, where incumbent Reps. Alex Mooney (R-WV) and David McKinley (R-WV) are facing off. McKinley, who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure package, has been endorsed by Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), while Mooney is backed by former President Donald Trump. A recent poll showed Mooney, who has outraised McKinley by $1.7 million, with a 15-point lead.
NE-02: In the Democratic primary in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, state Sen. Tony Vargas and activist Alicia Shelton are competing for the chance to take on Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) in the Omaha-area seat. Vargas is likely to win the primary, according to one Nebraska political consultant who spoke to JI last week, and will “probably give Don Bacon a run,” although the Cook Political Report rates the district as “Likely Republican.” “If you can turn out the Latino [vote] and [largely Black] North Omaha areas a little bit more than usual, it could be a very tight race,” the consultant added.
NE-Gov: Most attention in the Cornhusker State is on the Republican gubernatorial primary, a dead-even three-way race among state Sen. Brett Lindstrom, agricultural CEO Charles Herbster and University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen. Herbster has been endorsed by Trump and is facing numerous accusations of sexual misconduct.
NE-01: Republican state Sen. Mike Flood is running to replace former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), who resigned after being convicted of several felonies for lying to federal investigators. State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks is likely to pick up the nomination on the Democratic side. They’ll face off in a June 28 special election to fill Fortenberry’s seat for the rest of the current congressional term.
🌆 Oil and Water: The New York Times’ Jesse McKinley dissects what he describes as “friction” between New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who have not spoken one-on-one in nearly a year and reportedly have an icy relationship stemming from Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement of mayoral candidate Maya Wiley in last year’s primary. “The friction between Mr. Adams and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who both declined to be interviewed, belies a bevy of personal similarities: Both are ambitious Democrats, people of color raised in the New York City area by families with working-class roots, their bootstrap backgrounds deeply informing their politics and personal style. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez famously worked as a bartender; Mr. Adams recounts being a childhood member of a gang and a victim of police brutality. Political observers say the schism between the two seems to be underlaid by a complicated mix of personal disdain and policy differences. But there is also a dash of political calculation: an almost symbiotic relationship, with each finding a useful foil in their own backyard, someone on whom to focus their fire and to use to polish their own brand.” [NYTimes]
🇮🇷 Task Force Tasks: In Defense News, Retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, Bradley Bowman and Ryan Brobst suggest how a new multinational task force could help to counter Iranian weapons smuggling to its proxies throughout the region. “There is little doubt that the new task force will have its hands full. Iran has used the waters around Yemen to smuggle major quantities of weapons to the Houthis there. The Houthis, in turn, continue to use those weapons to stoke the conflict in Yemen, attack vessels in the Red Sea, and target civilians in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as documented in annual reports by the United Nations’ Panel of Experts on Yemen… The United States and its regional partners must make it more difficult for Tehran to send arms to its terrorist proxies, by sharing intelligence, building interdiction capability with regional partners and actually increasing the interdiction of illicit weapons shipments. The establishment of CTF-153 could help advance each of these goals.” [DefenseNews]
Around the Web
✈️ Trip Talk: President Joe Biden is reportedly considering adding East Jerusalem to his itinerary during his upcoming trip to Israel, expected to happen in late June.
🤝 Tête-à-Tête: Biden is expected to meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the White House when the royal is in Washington later this week.
🎖️ High Honor: The House is set to vote today on legislation granting Ben Ferencz, the last living Nuremberg prosecutor, the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest honor.
💸 Museum Mess: A New York City councilmember is pulling a planned $5,000 contribution to the Museum of Jewish Heritage after the museum reportedly refused to allow Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to speak at an event hosted by an outside organization.
👵 Collar-atura: An online auction of 150 items once owned by late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was auctioned for more than $800,000, with the proceeds going to the Washington National Opera.
🏆 Pulitzer Prizes: The Miami Herald won the Pulitzer for Breaking News for its coverage of last June’s condominium collapse in Surfside, Fla. Author Joshua Cohen won the Pulitzer in fiction for his book The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family. The Atlantic‘s Jennifer Senior won the Pulitzer for Feature Writing, for her September piece, “What Bobby McIlvaine Left Behind.”
🎭 Not So Funny: Harvey Fierstein’s Broadway revival of “Funny Girl” was nearly shut out of this year’s Tony Awards, receiving just one nomination for the entire production.
⚖️ In the Courts: The man who opened fire on a New York City subway train in April was indicted on terrorism and other charges.
👎 Confidence Man: The Israeli Knesset voted down two no-confidence measures targeting Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition — one introduced by the Likud party, the other by the Shas party.
🛫 Tehran Trip: Iran’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, will visit Tehran in the near future, ahead of a trip to Europe to discuss the stalled talks over Iran’s nuclear program.
☢️ Nuclear Option: The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said he was “extremely concerned” over the watchdog’s findings on undeclared uranium enrichment in Iran.
🛢️ Gas Find: London-based energy company Energean announced the discovery of gas off the coast of Israel.
🕯️ Remembering: Writer Midge Decter, who helped pioneer the neoconservatism movement, died at 94.
Pic of the Day
Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine performed on Monday night in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park.
Shopping center developer and former U.S. ambassador to both Australia and Italy, Melvin Floyd “Mel” Sembler turns 92…
Scion of a Hasidic dynasty and leader of the Beth Jehudah congregation in Milwaukee, Rabbi Michel Twerski… and his twin brother, who is a professor at Brooklyn Law School, following a career as dean at Hofstra University School of Law, Aaron Twerski, both turn 83… Majority owner of The Related Companies and principal owner of the Miami Dolphins, Stephen M. Ross turns 82… Founding rabbi of Chavurat Aytz Chayim in Connecticut, creator of RTN (a Russian language TV channel) and Shalom TV (a Jewish channel), Mark S. Golub turns 77… Democratic pollster and political strategist, Stanley Bernard “Stan” Greenberg turns 77… British actress, she is a vocal supporter of Israel, Dame Maureen Lipman turns 76… Senior counsel at Nixon Peabody, Richard Goldstein turns 74… Israeli businessman and philanthropist, his family founded Israel Discount Bank, Leon Recanati turns 74… Founder and CEO of OPTI Connectivity, Edward Brill turns 72… CEO of Medical Reimbursement Data Management in Chapel Hill, NC, Robert Jameson turns 72… American-born Israeli singer-songwriter and music producer, Yehudah Katz turns 71… Claims examiner at Chubb Insurance, David Beck turns 69… Anchor for “SportsCenter” and other programs on ESPN since 1979, Chris “Boomer” Berman turns 67… Former NBA player whose career spanned 18 seasons on 7 teams, Danny Schayes turns 63… U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MI) turns 63… Brazilian businessman Ricardo Samuel Goldstein turns 56… Special ed teacher, Neil Winchel turns 56… Senior rabbi of Houston’s Congregation Beth Yeshurun, Brian Strauss turns 50… Israeli rock musician, Aviv Geffen turns 49… Editor-in-chief, recipe developer, art director and food stylist of Fleishigs, a kosher food magazine, Shifra Klein turns 40… Video games reporter at Bloomberg News, Jason Schreier turns 35… Manager of government affairs at the American Forest & Paper Association, Fara Klein Sonderling turns 34… Associate director of communications in the D.C. office of Pew Research Center, Rachel Weisel turns 34… National correspondent for New York Magazine, Gabriel Debenedetti turns 32… Editorial director at The Record by Recorded Future, Adam Janofsky turns 31… Actress who has appeared in many films and television series, Halston Sage turns 29… Mollie Harrison…